This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
As with the Rue-leaved Saxifrage, we have no evidence as to the antiquity of this plant. It is found in the North Temperate Zone in Europe, W. Africa, Western Asia as far east as the Himalayas. It is found in Great Britain in Somersets; in the Channel province, except in the Isle of Wight; in the Thames province, Anglia; in the Severn province, except in Monmouth and W. Gloucs; in Wales, only in Brecon, Denbigh, Carnarvon, Flint, and Anglesea; in the Trent, Mersey, Tyne, and Lakes provinces, except in the Isle of Man; in W.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata, L.)
Lowlands; in E. Lowlands, except in Easterness; and in E. Ross, from Elgin to Somerset and Kent, ascending to 1500 ft. in Yorkshire; and it is rare in Ireland.
The White Meadow Saxifrage grows on the sides of hills in moist, shady hollows, where in the earlier part of the year it looks like Grass of Parnassus at a distance, when numerous plants grow together in association. It is a pelophilous plant.
Common enough, this has the habit of a bulbous plant with granulate tuberous roots. The stems are erect, the lower radical leaves kidney-shaped, with stalked, rounded lobes, scalloped, the leaf-stalks channelled. The stem-leaves are nearly stalkless, divided nearly to the base into 3 or 5 lobes, and the bulbs are downy and reddish.
Panicles of flowers of this plant have a pearly silvery effect. The petals are white, at right angles, rounded externally, narrowed below. The 10 anther-stalks bear awl-shaped yellow anthers. The seeds are numerous, small, black, in inversely egg-shaped, pale-brown capsules.
The Meadow Saxifrage is 1 ft. high. It flowers in May. This plant is a perennial, increasing by division.
The flowers contain honey, and the anthers mature before the stigmas. The general form of the flower and its chances of self- or cross-pollination are precisely the same as in S. tridactylites (which see).
The short-beaked capsule opening above causes the numerous seeds to be upset around the parent plant by the jerking caused by the wind or by browsing animals.
It is found on many different rock soils of Triassic and Liassic age, as well as on earlier granitic or volcanic rocks.
The only fungi that infest it are Puccinia saxifragoe or Coeoma saxifragoe.
The Yellow-winged Carpet feeds on it.
The second Latin name has reference to the small granular knobs of the roots or bulbs.
It is called Billy Button, Cuckoo-flower, Fair Maid of France, First of May, Thirlestane Grass, Lady's Pincushion, Pretty Maids, Sas-sifax, Saxifer, Saxifrage, White Saxifrage, Sen-green, Stonebreak. Pretty Maids refers to the double garden form, which may be:
"Mary! Mary! quite contrary, How does your garden grow? Cockle shells and silver bells, And pretty maids all of a row."
The First of May refers to its time of growing. By the Doctrine of Signatures it was formerly used for stone, because the plant growing on rocks was thought to break them. It is cultivated and forms a pretty garden flower, especially when double.
Essential Specific Characters: 110. Saxifraga granulata, L. - Stem erect, leafy below, roots bearing granular bulbs, radical leaves stalked, reniform, crenate, lobed, stem-leaves sessile, lobed, flowers large, white, in a cyme, calyx half-inferior.