Purple Mountain Saxifrage – Saxifraga oppositifolia

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Alaska Wildflowers | Pink | Purple

Purple Mountain Saxifrage flowers in rocky talus near the Black Rapids Glacier

Purple Mountain Saxifrage

Saxifraga oppositifolia ssp. oppositifolia L.

Purple saxifrage
French knot

Genus: Saxifraga
Family: Saxifragaceae
Order: Saxifragales

Type: Perennial
Uses: Petals are edible, but bitter

Identification and Habitat

Purple mountain saxifrage is a low-growing, small, matted plant with dark green rounded and scaly leaves earning it the name French Knot. It has many small 5-petaled, cup-shaped flowers that are magenta to purple in color. The flowers are about 1-1.5 cm in diameter, growing on short stalks rising slightly above the leaves. The plant is cushion-like and may grow to about 5 cm in height. The leaves are 2-4 mm long. The taproot may be very long, up to 50 cm or 20 in.

The plant grows in gravelly slopes, talus, and rocky ridges where there is decent moisture. I’ve often seen it growing in rocky glacier moraines where there is little soil growing between cracks in the rocks. It blooms very early, following snowmelt.

References
Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 20
Saxifraga oppositifolia ssp. oppositifolia  L., ITIS Report
Saxifraga oppositifolia L. ssp. Oppositifolia, USDA database
Purple Mountain Saxifrage – Saxifraga oppositifolia, Montana Field Guides
Purple Saxifrage, Alberta Plantwatch

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