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Saxifrage plants

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The saxifrage plants (bot. Saxifragaceae) belong as a family of plants to the saxifrage order (Saxifragales). They belong to the flowering plants (Magnoliopsida) within the system. The family comprises between 33 and 43 genera.

Some genera, such as Astilboides, contain a species. The species within a genus cannot always be clearly differentiated from one another. The saxifrage genus (Saxifraga) includes between 450 and 480 species. All genera of the saxifrage family together comprise up to 650 species.
The systematics of the plants is rearranged. Some genera have been separated from the old order, including hydrangeas or ribes (currants). The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group published its new system in 2009.


The plants form leaves. They consist of a short or long stem and leaf blade. They are often arranged alternately. In some genera and species they are opposite. They are distributed in a basal rosette or on a stem. The leaf blade is often simple, sometimes compound.
The type of leaf margin is also different. From smooth or creased to sawn and toothed to ciliate or glandular-ciliate everything is represented. Some species have shield-shaped leaves. In some species stipules appear, in others they are absent.
Bracts grow on some species. These reduced leaves are above the normal leaves and differ in shape. They protect the flower bud. Brightly colored bracts attract insects. The size of the leaf blade ranges from under one to 90 centimeters.


The flowers sit individually on the branches. In many species they are grouped in pairs or with up to 300 flowers. They are in terminal, simple or compound, racemose or panicle inflorescences. In a few species there are zygomorphic flowers. These flowers are tailored to certain insects for pollination.

The flowers are five-fold and mostly radial symmetry. This means that the components of the flowers are arranged in several circles around an axis. They are hermaphroditic, unisexual in some species. In most species, the flower cup is fused with the ovary. In almost all species there are five to six free sepals and just as many free petals. They are lobed or unlobed. Five fertilizable stamens are laid out in one or two circles. The two to three styles are free and mostly shorter than the ovary.


Capsule fruits or follicles develop. Some species contain two, others two hundred seeds. The seeds are tiny or small and they have a small, straight embryo.


The plant is annual, biennial or perennial and mostly herbaceous. Many have a rosette of leaves from which the flower stalks develop. Often the shoots push themselves out of the rhizome. In most species, petioles and leaves appear before flowering. The inflorescence stem is almost always leafless. Some flower stems are a few centimeters high. Many reach an average height of around 30 centimeters. Some species have glandular hairy petioles.

A large number of the saxifrage plants thrive on stone, in crevices and on sandy soils. Few species are native to permanently moist riparian zones. The plants grow on arable soil or humus forest soil. Some species move in in autumn. Some species are evergreen, clumpy growing perennials. Some reproduce vegetatively through runners.


Saxifragaceae are mainly found in temperate climates. The focus of development is the northern hemisphere. Around 158 species in 23 genera are native to North America.
The genera milkweed (Chrysosplenium) and saxifrage (Saxifraga) are at home in Central Europe. The genus Boykinia occurs in East Asia and North America. Armera Voss is native to California and Oregon and naturalized in England. The plant is called shield leaf, Indian rhubarb or umbrella plant. It grows along rivers and riparian zones.


Saxifrage plants are valuable as ornamental plants and cannot be imagined in gardens and facilities without them. The panel leaf (Astilboides tabularis) comes from northern China. With its leaves that are up to 90 centimeters in size, it is an unusual ornamental leaf. The leaves are on upright stems up to one meter high. The top of the leaves is hairy. The plant is perennial and stands in one place for many years. Small, fine flowers adorn the plant in summer.
Astilbes come in low or high varieties. They bloom early, in the middle of summer or autumn. With their different looks, they fit into different types of gardens. Their elegant white, pink or red flower panicles model spacious surfaces. They take on dry city air and complement roadside plantings.
Heuchera impress with their persistence as a ground cover. The leaf rosettes are eye-catching with their rounded, notched or lobed leaves. Cultivars with variegated white, yellow, rust-colored or aubergine-colored leaf rosettes add splashes of color to beds, troughs and boxes.
Species of saxifrages are suitable for dry and stony garden areas. They reproduce without care. The small flowers are white and yellow to orange. Some varieties have red and purple flowers. As a garden plant, the bergenia has come to the fore. Its evergreen leaves are a beautiful ornament in every season. It convinces with its frost hardiness and hardly needs any maintenance. In spring, neat inflorescences appear in shades of pink or red. Some cultivars have pure white flowers.