Welsh, Tormaen, Tormaen tribys (S. tridactylites), C1or y bran (S.granulata). - Irish, Gloris. - French, Saxifrage. - German, Steinbrech. - Italian, Sassifraga. - Spanish, Saxifraga. - II-lyric, Dvidac.
The saxifrage, called in Old England, "stone-break-root" from the wonderful manner in which the tender fibres of its rootlets penetrate the most stony and unpromising places, thus finding footing on the barest rocks, is taken from the Latin, and bears a name of the same meaning in Welsh (Tormaen), and in several other languages. Its medical uses appear to be either very trifling, or almost undiscovered; and Gerarde only remarks that "it comforteth the stomach," and "helpethcholer;" dismissing the rue-leaved saxifrage, or whitlow-gras(S. tridactylites) the Tormaen tribys, or three-fingered saxifrage of the Welsh, with the remark that; "as touching the qualitie hereof we have nothing to set downe, onely it hath been taken to heale the disease of the nailes called a whitlow, whereof it tooke his name, as also naile-wort." But then he adds, triumphantly, that the saxifrages, and especially that which he calls S. anglicana, are much used as rennet "in Cheshire where I was borne, where the best chiese of this lande is made".
Rue-leaved Saxigrage. Saxifraga tridactylites.
The saxifrages of Britain are divided into four different classes. The first, which has the calyx reflexed and inferior, and the flowers in panicles, boasts amongst its numbers the London-pride, justly named "none-so-pretty" (S. umbrosa), or the "St. Patrick's cabbage" of the Irish, the pride of our childish gardens; and the kidney-leaved (S. geum), which occurs on mountains in the south of Ireland. It also includes the hairy (8. hirsuta), which though very distinct in its appearance, is most probably a hybrid between the kidney-leaved-saxifrage and the London-pride, which occurs in the gap of Dunloe, in the vicinity of Killarney; and the starry-saxifrage (S. stellans) which abounds by the sides of rocky streamlets in mountainous districts in Scotland, and the north of England and Ireland.
The second division has but one British species, the clustered Alpine (8. nivalis), which grows in the rocky mountain clefts of Wales and Ireland. It has its calyx spreading and half superior, and a scape with a spreading head of flowers.
Among those saxifrages which have the calyx partly, or entirely, inferior, the stem leafy, and the leaves undivided, which form the third class, is the exquisitely beautiful purple mountain-saxifrage (S. oppositifolia), which decks with beauty the higher districts of the Welsh and Highland mountains, as it does the higher Alps, from whence it was imported as a precious garden plant long before it was known to be a native of our own land. This is not an uncommon case. Its beauty caused it to be eagerly sought after; and it is now regularly sold in pots in Covent Garden Market as an early spring flower. The yellow mountain-saxifrage (S. aizoides) with its bright yellow blossoms, gaily sprinkled with orange dots, also grows in our higher mountain districts at the side of rills, or in other moist situations; but the yellow marsh-saxifrage (S. hirculus) is an exceedingly rare marsh plant; which, though found in the Arctic regions (at least of America), goes no further north in Britain than Berwickshire, yet it abounds in Iceland.
The remaining division of British saxifrages has the calyx spreading, the leaves divided, and the flowering stems erect, and more or less leafy; it contains no fewer than eight species, and some authors have magnified the varieties of the mossy-saxifrage (S. hypnoides) into six additional kinds, each with a specific name of its own. Probably the best known species of this division is the rue-leaved saxifrage already mentioned and figured, which is so familiar to us as mingling with mosses on the top of old walls, or on old dry banks, where its minute white blossoms in spring, and even winter,and its brilliantly scarlet leaves in autumn, make it an attractive and interesting object. Of this division the other species are: 1. the white meadow-saxifrage (S. granu-lata), the Clor y bran, crow's earth-nuts or potatoes of the Welsh, so called from the number of small clustered tubers which distinguish its root; 2. the bulbous-saxifrage (S. cernua), which has frequently the peculiarity of bearing no flower, though at other times it has one large white terminal blossom, while it propagates itself by means of clusters of very small bulbs which grow in the axils of the upper leaves, giving, of course, a very distinctive character to the plant; 3. the Alpine rock-saxifrage (S. rivularis), abounding on the Loch na gar, but exceedingly rare on the summits of Ben Nevis and Ben Lawers, which three are its only known British habitats; 4. the tufted Alpine saxifrage (S. ccespitosa), occurring, though very rarely, on the higher mountains of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; 5. the so-called pedatifid-saxifrage (S. pedatifida), found only near the head of Clova in Angusshire, and there only by the Don, and appearing to be quite a distinct species; 6. the mossy Alpine saxifrage (S. muscoides), which is very well known in our gardens, and grows in Westmorland, and also in the highlands of Scotland, though Sir W. Hooker seems to think it but a doubtful native; and to these must be added 7. the mossy-saxifrage (S. hypnoides) with its varieties already alluded to.
The Chrysospleniums are also, though erroneously, called saxifrages in English; and this practice of applying a known name to a different tribe has often led to considerable confusion.