PURPLE SAXIFRAGE

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifrage Family [Saxifragaceae]  

month8mar month8march month8apr month8april month8May

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8purple
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round
rarity
rarityZuncommon

17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Grows on limestone rocks at one of the interfaces between carboniferous limestone and shale as typical of several high ruck summits of some mountains in the Yorkshire Dales.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Will not thrive lower than an altitude of about 600m-700m in this part of Yorkshire. A short mat-forming perennial.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Grows on dampish rough broken vertical rock faces (sometimes on horizontal rocks on the ground, but these rocks may just have fallen off the near-vertical cliff taking the plant with them).


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are purple - these are fading somewhat due to being near the end of the season for them.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Has 5 purple petals with well-rounded ends, some with a small blunt 'point'. Leaves tiny in comparison.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Stamens nominally number 10, ovary semi-inferior with two styles.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Anthers are red to pink before opening (flower top right) to show the orange-pink pollen (central flower)


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Petals flared open. Anthers here deep red with concolourous double-style.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Anthers fading to salmon-pink, Two styles in centre with fuzzy each with a small discoidal stigma atop.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Flowers on very short stalks surrounded by 5 fairly large paler off-green-coloured half-oval sepals edged with shortish, curved, bristly white hairs. Below them are half-oval green bracts (possibly flower-stem leaves?) edged with similar curved hairs.


Iceland Photo: © Philip Draper
Growing on moist ground in Iceland. A requirement is that it is a cold-loving plant and it will not grow in warmer climes.


Iceland Photo: © Philip Draper
Leaves on creeping stems more clearly visible here on the Icelandic specimens.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Stems creeping and rooting, with short opposite leaves.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Flowers solitary at the end of very short stalks. The 5 sepals are fused together about 2/3rds way down.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Leaves small, opposite, triangular to oval.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Possibly a flower has been lost at the end of the larger and paler leaves/bracts on the left.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Leaves in close-up - opposite, triangular (when new) to oval with vicious-looking short curved bristly hairs. Leaves covered in small glands/pores. The tip is thickened and has a small pit able to exude unwanted or excess fluids containing dissolved limestone.


17th April 2016, Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales. Photo: © RWD
Note the fossil in the rock, top left: A fossilised pre-historic voltaic pile aeons before Alessandro Volta discovered his. Either that or a bolt from the blue - perhaps 1/4inch Whitworth thread. An old inefficient copper-oxide or selenium rectifier also looks similar.
It also has similarities to a trilobite and to a coral stem but a crinoid stem seems to fit much better with the longer and more regular repeating pattern of 'discs'. The limestone in this area is from the carboniferous period and is built of coral deposited in warm shallow seas from a time 350million years ago when this part of what is now Northern England was much closer to the equator.


The binomial name should not to be confused semantically with that of : Chrysosplenium oppositifolia (Opposite-leaved Golden-Saxifrage) which is another saxifrage belonging to the same family but sharing only the same specific epithet: oppositifolia

Easily mistaken for : Trailing Azalea (Kalmia procumbens) which has almost identical purple coloured flowers, is also prostrate, also grows on mountains in Scotland (and elsewhere) but the leaves are totally different.

Some similarities to : Moss Campion which also prefers to grow on mountains.

Unique fact : Purple Saxifrage is the only saxifrage which has purple flowers.

Distinguishing Feature : A tiny rosette of leaves rather like a house leek plant. The flowers are much larger than the rosette of leaves. The penny-sized purple flowers with five splayed-out petals and a rather large well in the middle from where deep-red to salmon-pink to orange-pink stamens protrude slightly.

Purple Saxifrage is a very rare plant that prefers to grow on Limestone Uplands, particularly two mountains in the Yorkshire Dales: Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough, but only at one specific height. That height has a lot to do with the varying strata on those two hills, alternating between mudstones and limestone at various heights. It is much more prolific on the north western mountains of Scotland. It is also to be found on some mountains of Snowdonia south of Anglesey. It prefers dampish cliffs, rocks, screes and rock-ledges and stony flushes away from trampling feet and hungry sheep. The flowers are pinkish-purple with 5 petals 5-10mm long with 10 deep-red to salmon-pink to stamens and two deep-red styles terminated by two small concolourous discoidal stigmas. It grows in short-mat-forming procumbent dense masses and has creeping and rooting stems with short shoots densely covered in opposite pairs of small oval (when fully developed) leaves 4-5mm long. The leaves have a thickened tip with a whitish pit which exudes excess unwanted lime. Leaves have short, curved, bristly hairs on the edges.

It is only locally common and grows in the North and South Wales, the North-West of England and Scotland and in the North and West of Ireland. It is an cold-loving alpine plant which grows at an altitude of between sea level and 1210m high, but is more usually found at between 300m to 1000m. In it's more southerly locations it only grows on the north faces of substrates.

Like Moss Campion, Purple Saxifrage also likes to form low prostrate matts. It has similar coloured flowers, and an identical number of petals, five.


  Saxifraga oppositifolia  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Saxifragaceae  

Distribution
family8Saxifrage family8Saxifracaea

 BSBI maps
genus8saxifraga
Saxifraga
(Saxifrages)

PURPLE SAXIFRAGE

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifrage Family [Saxifragaceae]  

WildFlowerFinder Homepage