Micranthes virginiensis (Early Saxifrage)

Plant Info
Also known as: Virginia Saxifrage
Family:Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; cliffs, rock outcrops, rocky slopes, stream banks
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branched clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the stem, initially compact and flat to dome-shaped, elongating and spreading later as fruit develops. Flowers are about 1/6 inch across with 5 white, oblong-elliptic petals, 10 yellow stamens surrounding (usually) 2 teardrop shaped carpels in the center. The calyx holding the flower is hairy and glandular, and has 5 lobes shorter than the petals.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, 1 to 3 inches long, oval to spatula shaped, coarsely toothed and hairy around the edges, rounded at the tip and tapering at the base to a short stalk. Surfaces are variously hairy with reddish brown hairs, and glandular. Flowering stems are round, densely hairy, single or multiple from the base, about 4 inches tall at first flowering, elongating up to 12 inches in fruit.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a green to purplish capsule containing numerous tiny seeds in vertical rows. When 2 carpels are present, they are angled so the bases are nearly joined with the tips spreading away from each other (divergent).


Not a common species in Minnesota by any stretch, Early Saxifrage is more similar to the rare Encrusted Saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata), which is also found on the rocky north shore of Lake Superior, than to the more closely related and common Swamp Saxifrage (Micranthes pensylvanica), which is a far taller plant found in seeps, wet woods, and other swampy habitats. S. paniculata is distinguished by its stem leaves, denser basal rosette of white-edged leaves, and larger flowers, the petals often spotted.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Tim - Oberg Mountain, Cook County
on: 2016-05-17 21:02:14

Flowers just opening on short stalks May 15 on bald south facing granite outcrops. The other wildflowers blooming at this time on the mountain were Spring Beauty, Dutchman's Breeches, and Violets.

Posted by: Catherine - Bean and Bear Lake Trail (Superior Hiking Trail)
on: 2021-05-09 17:45:13

A few little patches on the Bean and Bear loop blooming on May 9, both in the woods and on a rocky overlook.

Posted by: Robert Klenzman - Lake Isabella, BWCA
on: 2022-06-05 09:42:11

Common on the rocky shoreline campsite we were at on the east side of Lake Isabella.

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