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Marsh Saxifrage

Saxifraga hirculus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, grassland, marshes, moorland, wetland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Solitary, red dotted, buttercup-like flowers, 2 to 3cm across. The flowers are similar to Yellow Saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides) but larger. 10 yellow stamens.
A 2-parted fruit capsule.
The leaves are mainly in a basal rosette. The lance-shaped leaves are either short-stalked or stalkless. Leaves are scarcely toothed. Marsh Saxifrage is covered in reddish hairs, unlike the similar looking Yellow Saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides). The stem is red. Perennial.
Other Names:
Bog Saxifrage, Dwarf Saxifrage, Yellow Marsh Saxifrage.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Saxifraga hirculus, also known as dwarf saxifrage or yellow marsh saxifrage, is a perennial flowering plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a small, mat-forming plant that has basal rosettes of leaves and produces small, yellow, star-shaped flowers in the spring. It prefers damp, shady places and can be found growing in bogs, fens, and other wetland habitats. It is a hardy plant that can be grown in a variety of conditions but prefers well-drained, moist soil and partial shade to full sun. It can be propagated by seed or division of the clumps.


Marsh saxifrage, also known as Saxifraga hirculus, is a small flowering plant that is native to wetlands and marshy areas in northern Europe, including parts of the British Isles and Scandinavia. It is a hardy plant that can withstand cold temperatures and wet conditions, making it well-suited to its native habitat.

The plant typically grows to a height of around 10-20cm, and has small, delicate white flowers that appear in early summer. The flowers are held above the foliage on thin stems, and are arranged in clusters that can contain up to 20 individual blooms. The leaves of the plant are rounded and somewhat succulent, and grow in a basal rosette close to the ground.

Despite its small size, marsh saxifrage is an important plant for wetland ecosystems. It provides habitat and food for a variety of insects, including butterflies and moths, and is also a food source for grazing animals such as sheep and cattle. In addition, the plant helps to stabilize soil in wetland areas, preventing erosion and promoting the growth of other plants.

Marsh saxifrage has been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. Its leaves and roots are rich in tannins and other compounds that have astringent and antiseptic properties. These properties make it useful in treating a variety of ailments, including sore throats, digestive issues, and skin irritations. However, it is important to note that herbal remedies should always be used with caution and under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

Marsh saxifrage is a fascinating and useful plant that is well-adapted to wetland habitats. Its delicate flowers and hardy nature make it a favorite of both insects and grazers, while its medicinal properties have made it a valued plant in traditional medicine. As wetland habitats continue to face threats from human development and climate change, it is important that we work to protect and preserve plants like marsh saxifrage that are so important to these ecosystems.

Marsh saxifrage belongs to the family Saxifragaceae, which includes many other species of saxifrages that are found throughout the world. The genus Saxifraga is named after the Latin words for "rock breaker," which refers to the plant's ability to grow in rocky environments. Many species in this genus are well-known for their ability to thrive in harsh alpine environments, and are popular among rock gardeners and alpine plant enthusiasts.

One interesting aspect of marsh saxifrage is its unique reproductive strategy. The plant is able to self-pollinate, but it can also reproduce vegetatively by producing small bulblets on its stems. These bulblets can fall off the plant and grow into new plants, allowing marsh saxifrage to rapidly colonize wetland areas.

While marsh saxifrage is not considered a threatened species, wetland habitats around the world are under threat from human development, pollution, and climate change. In some areas, marsh saxifrage may be impacted by changes in water levels or invasive species that compete for resources. It is important that we work to protect and preserve these important wetland habitats, and the many plant and animal species that depend on them.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal importance, marsh saxifrage has also been used in folklore and mythology. In Norse mythology, the plant was associated with the goddess Freya, who was said to have taught humans how to use it for medicinal purposes. In some cultures, marsh saxifrage was thought to have magical properties and was used in spells and charms.

Overall, marsh saxifrage is a fascinating and important plant that has many uses and associations. Its delicate beauty and hardy nature make it a valuable addition to wetland habitats and gardens alike, and its history and folklore give it a rich cultural significance. As we continue to learn more about this remarkable plant, we can appreciate the many ways in which it contributes to our world.

Another interesting aspect of marsh saxifrage is its adaptations to living in wetland habitats. The plant has a shallow, fibrous root system that allows it to absorb nutrients and moisture from the saturated soil. The leaves of the plant are also adapted to prevent water loss, with a thick cuticle and small stomata that minimize evaporation. In addition, the plant has a high tolerance for acidity, which is often present in wetland soils.

Marsh saxifrage is also a popular plant for rock gardens and alpine gardens. Its small size and delicate flowers make it a charming addition to these types of gardens, and it can be grown in a variety of soil types and conditions. In cultivation, the plant prefers a moist, well-draining soil and partial shade. It can be propagated by seed or by dividing the plant in early spring.

In some areas, marsh saxifrage is considered an invasive species, particularly in wetland habitats outside of its native range. Invasive populations of the plant can displace native vegetation and disrupt ecosystem processes. It is important to be aware of the potential impacts of introducing non-native species to new habitats, and to take steps to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Overall, marsh saxifrage is a fascinating and important plant with many unique adaptations and uses. Whether growing in its native wetland habitats or in gardens and rockeries, it is a valuable addition to any ecosystem. By learning more about this remarkable plant, we can appreciate its many contributions to our world and work to protect and preserve its natural habitats.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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