SAXIFRAGE FAMILY - Saxifragaceae: Early Saxifrage

Saxifraga virginiensis

Flowers--White, small, numerous, perfect, spreading into a loose panicle. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 petals; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with 2 styles. Scape: 4 to 12 in. high, naked, sticky-hairy. Leaves: Clustered at the base, rather thick, obovate, toothed, and narrowed into spatulate-margined petioles. Fruit: Widely spread, purplish brown pods.

Preferred Habitat--Rocky woodlands, hillsides.

Flowering Season--March-May.

Distribution--New Brunswick to Georgia, and westward a thousand miles or more.

Rooted in clefts of rock that, therefore, appears to be broken by this vigorous plant, the saxifrage shows rosettes of fresh green leaves in earliest spring, and soon whitens with its blossoms the most forbidding niches. (Saxum = a rock; frango = I break.) At first a small ball of green buds nestles in the leafy tuffet, then pushes upward on a bare scape, opening its tiny, white, five-pointed star flowers as it ascends, until, having reached the allotted height, it scatters them in spreading clusters that last a fortnight.