eastern swamp saxifrage

(Micranthes pensylvanica)

Conservation Status
eastern swamp saxifrage
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


OBL - Obligate wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

OBL - Obligate wetland


Eastern swamp saxifrage is a 12 to 36 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on a rosette of basal leaves and a single flowering stalk from a caudex and fleshy, translucent roots.

The leaves are all basal and form a rosette. They are leathery, sparsely hairy, and spoon-shaped or lance-shaped. The larger ones are 4 to 8 long, and 1½ to 3 wide. They taper at the base to a short, broad, reddish-purple leaf stalk and taper to a point or are rounded at the tip. Young leaves are hairy. The upper surface of mature leaves is medium green and hairless or sparsely hairy. The lower surface is paler green and hairy or sparsely hairy. The margins have shallow, rounded teeth.

The flowering stalk (scape) is erect, stout, unbranched, round in cross section, finely grooved, leafless, and densely covered with spreading, sticky hairs.

The inflorescence is a pyramidal, branched cluster (panicle) of convex flower clusters (cymes) at the end of the scape. It is compact and dense at first, becoming loose and elongating as it matures, ultimately 6 to 18 long and 2 to 6 wide. The branches of the panicle are ascending to spreading and are subtended by a single linear, leaf-like bract.

The flowers are to ¼ wide. The 5 petals are white or greenish-white, narrow, 1 16 to long, spreading, with 1 or 3 veins. There are 5 green sepals that are about the same length as the petals and are joined at the base. The sepals are bent backward when the flowers are fully expanded. There are 10 stamens with white to orangish-brown anthers. At the center of the flower is a large, pale green, cone-shaped hypanthium.

The fruit is a pair of erect, beaked follicles with many seeds.




12 to 36


Flower Color


White or greenish-white


Similar Species


Early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis) is a much smaller plant, 4 tall at first flowering to 16 at maturity. The leaves are much smaller, ¾ to 2 long. The leaf margins are coarsely toothed. The sepals are spreading or ascending, not bent backward. The flowers are larger. The petals are to ¼ long. In Minnesota it is found only in the northeast corner and in Lake of the Woods County.

Edible valerian (Valeriana edulis var. ciliata) has leafy flowering stems.

Fen grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) has a slender, hairless scape. The inflorescence is a solitary flower at the end of the scape. The flowers are much larger, up to 1 wide. The petals are white with many greenish veins. There are only 5 stamens.


Wet to moderate moisture. Meadows, woods, bogs.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Saxifraganae  


Saxifragales (saxifrages, stonecrops, and allies)  


Saxifragaceae (saxifrage)  
  Tribe Micrantheae (early saxifrage)  
  Genus Micranthes (early saxifrages)  
  Section Micranthes  



Saxifraga forbesii

Saxifraga pensylvanica

Saxifraga pensylvanica var. forbesii

Saxifraga pensylvanica ssp. interior

Saxifraga pensylvanica var. purpuripetala

Saxifraga pensylvanica ssp. tenuirostrata


Common Names


eastern swamp saxifrage

Forbe’s saxifrage

swamp saxifrage












A comparatively short and stout, narrow or prolonged tip on a thickened organ, as on some fruits and seeds.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.



A branched, flat-topped or convex flower cluster in which the terminal flower opens first and the outermost flowers open last.



A dry fruit formed from a single carpel, containing many seeds, that opens at maturity along the seed-bearing seam.



A cup-like tubular structure of a flower formed from the fused bases of sepals, petals, and stamens, that surrounds the pistil. Its presence is diagnostic of many families, including Rose, Gooseberry, and Pea.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



A pyramidal inflorescence with a main stem and branches. Flowers on the lower, longer branches mature earlier than those on the shorter, upper ones.



An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

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Basal rosette

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