Saxifrage Family – Saxifragaceae

There are about 600 species in the Saxifrage Family worldwide.

Actual flower size: 1/3 inch across

Spotted Saxifrage – Saxifraga bronchialis

Plant Description: Most members of this family are perennial herbs with deeply-lobed, basal leaves and a flowering stem often with small, alternate leaves and one to many small flowers held well above the basal leaves.

Flower Description: The flowers are usually small, 1/2 inch or less across, and radially symmetrical. The 5 sepals are often joined part way to form a cup or saucer with 5 lobes. There are 5 petals, most often white and sometimes with unusual shapes or appendages. There are 5 or 10 stamens and 2 fused pistils. Two members of the family have special structures: Petaless Saxifrage has no petals and Youth-on-Age has only 4 petals and 3 stamens.

Ecology: Most members of the Saxifrage family grow in the northern temperate zones from moist woodlands at sea level to rocky crags at very high alpine elevations.

Cultivated species include Astilbe, Heuchera (Alumroot), Bergenia, Coral Bells, Piggyback and Saxifrage.


  • The fruit is a capsule with many seeds.
  • The name “Saxifrage” mean “rock-breaker” comes from the members of the family that grow in crevices of rocks.
  • The Saxifrage Family is closely related to the Stonecrop, Currant, Hydrangea, and Rose Families and has, in past years, sometimes been placed in those families.
  • There have been many recent changes in the Saxifrage Family. More information about these changes appears below the photo gallery and on the “APG Changes” page.


This gallery features 31 species of the Saxifrage Family

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APG Changes to the Saxifrage Family

  • The majority of the genus Saxifraga has been placed in a new genus – Micranthes. The species names have been updated on this website to reflect these changes.
  • All but one of the genus Mitella has been changed to Pectiantia, Ozomelis or Mitellastra.
  • Parnassia (Grass-of-Parnassus) has been moved to an entirely different family, Celastraceae (Bittersweet Family).

Distinctions between Saxifraga and Micranthes


  • Leaves basal and on stem (latter sometimes reduced and bract like).
  • Carpels usually attached more than one-half way up.
  • Seeds smooth or with bumps.
  • Pollen with parallel veins or granular.


  • Basal leaves only.
  • Carpels usually attached less than one-half way up.
  • Seeds longitudinally ribbed.
  • Pollen net-veined.