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Round-leaved Saxifrage

Saxifraga rotundifolia

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
15 centimetres tall
Gardens, meadows, mountains, riversides, rocky places, waterside, woodland.

White, 5 petals
White, star-shaped flowers, spotted red, purple and yellow. The 5 green sepals are spreading in nature. The flowers are larger (12 to 20mm in diameter) than those of the similar looking and more common Kidney Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirsuta).
The fruit is a capsule.
A perennial garden escape whose leaves consist of a dense basal rosette. The hairy leaves are roundish to kidney-shaped and long-stalked. The leaves are also dark green and toothed.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Saxifraga rotundifolia, also known as round-leaved saxifrage, is a perennial plant species in the saxifrage family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It has small round green leaves, and small white or pink flowers that bloom in spring and early summer. It typically grows to be about 5-15 cm tall and prefers moist, well-drained soils in partial shade or full sun. This species is commonly found in alpine and subalpine meadows, rocky outcrops, and talus slopes.


Round-leaved Saxifrage, scientifically known as Saxifraga rotundifolia, is a small, delicate alpine plant that is commonly found growing in the subarctic and alpine regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. This fascinating plant is a member of the Saxifrage family, which comprises over 440 species of flowering plants.

The round-leaved saxifrage is a small, clump-forming perennial plant that grows to a height of about 5-10cm. It has small, round, fleshy leaves that are dark green in color and form a basal rosette. The plant produces erect stems that bear small, white, star-shaped flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer. The flowers have five petals and are approximately 1cm in diameter. The plant also produces small, dry capsules that contain numerous tiny seeds.

Round-leaved saxifrage is adapted to growing in harsh, rocky environments, such as high-altitude mountain slopes and Arctic tundra. It prefers well-drained soils and partial to full sun exposure. The plant can withstand freezing temperatures, and its shallow root system allows it to anchor itself to rocky crevices and survive strong winds.

The round-leaved saxifrage has been used for medicinal purposes in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. The plant contains several bioactive compounds, including flavonoids and tannins, that have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. The plant is also used as a natural remedy for respiratory and digestive ailments.

Round-leaved saxifrage is an important food source for several species of insects, including butterflies and moths, and its nectar attracts bees and other pollinators. It is also an important food source for some herbivores, such as reindeer and muskoxen, that inhabit the Arctic tundra.

Round-leaved saxifrage is a small but fascinating alpine plant that has adapted to survive in harsh environments. Its medicinal properties and importance as a food source for wildlife make it a valuable plant to study and conserve.

Round-leaved Saxifrage, like many other species of saxifrage, is well-known for its ability to grow in nutrient-poor soils. It achieves this by secreting an acid that dissolves minerals from the rock and converts them into a form that the plant can absorb. This adaptation allows the plant to thrive in rocky environments where few other plants can grow.

The round-leaved saxifrage is also known for its cultural and historical significance. In some regions, the plant has been used in traditional ceremonies and is believed to possess spiritual and healing powers. For example, the Inuit people of Alaska and Canada have traditionally used the plant as a remedy for various ailments, including coughs and colds. They also believe that the plant has the power to attract good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Due to its small size and delicate nature, round-leaved saxifrage is vulnerable to habitat loss and disturbance. Climate change is also a significant threat to the plant, as it is adapted to grow in cold environments and may not be able to survive in warmer temperatures. In some regions, conservation efforts have been initiated to protect the plant and its habitat.

Overall, the round-leaved saxifrage is a remarkable plant that has adapted to survive in some of the harshest environments on Earth. Its cultural, ecological, and medicinal significance makes it an important plant to study and conserve.

The round-leaved saxifrage is not only fascinating in its adaptations and uses, but it also serves as a model species for studying the effects of climate change on high-altitude and Arctic ecosystems. As temperatures rise and habitats shift, researchers can use the plant as an indicator species to assess the impacts of environmental change on the broader ecosystem.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, round-leaved saxifrage also has aesthetic value. Its delicate white flowers and small rosette of round leaves make it a popular ornamental plant in rock gardens and alpine plant collections.

It is worth noting that round-leaved saxifrage is just one of many species in the Saxifraga genus. Other species, such as the mossy saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) and the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), also exhibit remarkable adaptations to survive in harsh environments and have cultural and ecological significance. The Saxifrage family as a whole is an important group of plants to study and conserve due to their wide-ranging uses and fascinating adaptations.

Another interesting aspect of the round-leaved saxifrage is its reproductive strategy. The plant is capable of reproducing asexually through vegetative propagation, in which new individuals are produced from the parent plant without the need for seeds or fertilization. This allows the plant to quickly colonize new areas and can be especially important in harsh environments where conditions for seed germination and pollination may be unfavorable.

However, round-leaved saxifrage also reproduces sexually through seed production. The plant relies on pollinators such as bees and flies to transfer pollen from the male to the female flowers, allowing fertilization and the production of seeds. The seeds are small and light, allowing them to be easily dispersed by the wind or carried by animals.

One interesting aspect of round-leaved saxifrage pollination is that the plant is capable of self-fertilization, which can be an advantage in environments where pollinators are scarce or conditions for seed production are unfavorable. However, research suggests that the plant still benefits from outcrossing, or pollination with other individuals, which can increase genetic diversity and help the plant adapt to changing environmental conditions.

In conclusion, the round-leaved saxifrage is a fascinating plant with remarkable adaptations and uses. Its reproductive strategy and adaptations to harsh environments make it a valuable species to study and conserve, and its cultural and ecological significance make it an important plant for human and animal communities alike.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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