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Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage

Chrysosplenium alternifolium

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Cliffs, riverbanks, riversides, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Yellow, no petals
The flowers are lime green and have 5 stamens. The central flower has 4 or 5 lobes. Each flower has 2 styles, both being fused together at their bases. Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) is a similar-looking flower but has larger flowers with glossier bracts. Both species are often found growing together. Pollinated by beetles and flies.
A capsule. The seeds are very dark brown or black.
A mat-forming perennial flower with alternate, stalked leaves. The leaves are more heart-shaped and clearly toothed than Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage. Also, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is less mat-forming and has a taller, more triangular stem. The best way to distinguish Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage from Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage is that the leaves of Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage are notched rather than wavy-edged. Also the stems of Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage are triangular in cross-section, whereas those of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage are square in cross-section.
Other Names:
Alternate-leaf Golden Saxifrage, Golden Saxifrage, Iowa Golden Saxifrage.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Chrysosplenium alternifolium, also known as alternate-leaved golden saxifrage, is a species of perennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It is a member of the saxifrage family and typically grows to be about 15-30 cm tall. The plant has small, greenish-yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. The leaves are alternate and are kidney-shaped. It is commonly used as a groundcover plant and can be found growing in damp, shady areas such as stream banks and shaded woods.


Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage, also known as Chrysosplenium alternifolium, is a beautiful perennial plant that is native to Europe and North America. This plant is a member of the Saxifragaceae family and is commonly found growing in damp woodland areas, along streams, and in bogs.

The plant has a creeping habit, and it forms a dense carpet of bright green, rounded leaves. The leaves are alternate, hence the name, and are quite large, measuring up to 8 cm across. The leaves are shiny, with a slightly wavy edge, and have a slightly serrated texture. The plant is called "Golden Saxifrage" because it produces small, bright yellow flowers that bloom from late winter to early spring. These flowers are held in clusters on short stems that rise above the leaves, creating a beautiful contrast against the lush green foliage.

One of the most notable features of Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is its adaptability to different growing conditions. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, and is very happy in damp, shady areas. This adaptability makes it a popular choice for gardeners who want to add some color to shady areas of their gardens.

Another benefit of planting Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is that it attracts a wide range of pollinators, including bees and butterflies. The bright yellow flowers provide a valuable source of early-season nectar for these important insects, which in turn helps to support other wildlife in the ecosystem.

In terms of maintenance, this plant is very easy to care for. It requires very little pruning, and its spreading habit means that it will quickly cover any bare soil, making it an ideal plant for ground cover. It is also very hardy, able to withstand frost and cold temperatures, making it a great choice for gardeners who live in colder climates.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is a beautiful, adaptable, and easy-to-care-for plant that can add a splash of color and life to shady areas of your garden. Whether you're looking to attract pollinators or simply want to add some texture to your landscape, this plant is an excellent choice. So, if you're looking for a plant that is both beautiful and functional, be sure to consider the Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of garden designs. It can be used as a ground cover in shaded areas, as an accent plant in a mixed border, or as a mass planting for a dramatic effect. When planted in groups, it can create a lush, vibrant carpet of green that is particularly eye-catching when in bloom.

In addition to its aesthetic qualities, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including stomach problems, kidney stones, and wounds. Some studies have shown that the plant has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and it may have potential as a treatment for certain diseases.

Another interesting fact about Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is that it has been used as a natural dye. The leaves and stems of the plant contain a yellow pigment that has been used to dye fabric and wool. The dye is particularly effective when used with alum as a mordant.

In terms of cultivation, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is relatively easy to propagate. It can be grown from seed, but it is also possible to divide the plant in early spring or late autumn. The plant prefers damp, shady conditions, so it is important to keep it well-watered, particularly during hot, dry spells.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is a beautiful and versatile plant that can bring a touch of vibrant color to shaded areas of the garden. Whether you're looking to create a lush ground cover or add a splash of yellow to a mixed border, this plant is an excellent choice. Its adaptability, low-maintenance requirements, and potential medicinal uses make it a fascinating and worthwhile addition to any garden.

In some cultures, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is also considered a sacred plant. In the British Isles, it was believed to have mystical properties and was often associated with fairies and other supernatural beings. In some Native American cultures, it was used as a protective talisman and was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits.

In addition to its cultural and medicinal uses, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage also has ecological importance. It is an important plant in riparian areas, providing habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including insects, birds, and small mammals. The plant's dense foliage also helps to prevent erosion and stabilize streambanks, which can help to improve water quality and maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Unfortunately, like many other plant species, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is also at risk from habitat loss and other environmental pressures. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve the plant, and gardeners can also play a role by including it in their garden designs and promoting its use in restoration and conservation projects.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is a remarkable and versatile plant with a rich cultural history, medicinal uses, and ecological importance. Its adaptability, aesthetic qualities, and low-maintenance requirements make it an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a splash of color and life to their landscapes. As we work to protect and preserve our natural world, this plant serves as a reminder of the beauty and value of the natural world around us.

One interesting fact about Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is that it is a member of the genus Chrysosplenium, which means "golden scales" in Greek. This name refers to the small, shiny scales that cover the plant's stem and leaves, giving it a distinctive and somewhat metallic appearance.

Another notable feature of the plant is its ability to thrive in low light conditions. It is often used in garden designs for shaded areas where other plants may struggle. Its bright yellow flowers are particularly eye-catching in these darker areas, and can help to add a much-needed pop of color to the landscape.

Like many other plants, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage has been the subject of various myths and legends. In some cultures, it was believed to have the power to bring good luck and fortune to those who carried it. In others, it was considered a symbol of love and was often given as a gift to express affection.

Overall, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage is a unique and fascinating plant with a rich history and a variety of uses. Whether you're a gardener looking to add some color to a shady area of your landscape, or a conservationist working to protect and preserve important habitats, this plant is a valuable and worthwhile addition to any project. So the next time you come across this beautiful and versatile plant, take a moment to appreciate its many qualities and the role it plays in our natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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