Alaska boykinia – Boykinia richardsonii

Alaska Wildflowers | White

Alaska boykinia flower blooming in the Alaska Range. (Also known as the bear flower or Richardson's brookfoam)

Alaska boykinia

Boykinia richardsonii

Common Names

Alaska boykinia
bear flower
Richardson’s brookfoam
Richardson’s saxifrage

Synonyms

Saxifraga richardsonii
Therofon richardsonii

Subspecies

none

Genus: Boykinia
Family: Saxifragaceae
Order: Saxifragales
Full Classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Form/herb



Identification and Information

Alaska boykinia is a perennial white flowering plant with large, palm-shaped basal leaves. It grows from underground rhizomes. The stems are 10-60 cm (4-24 inches) tall and green or reddish with short, bristly hairs. The large basal leaves are attached by petiole and are reniform (kidney-shaped), dentate, and usually with several shallow lobes. The cauline leaves are fewer and usually much smaller than the basal leaves, fringed with brown or red hairs.

The inflorescence is a narrowly cylindric and congested spike. It sometimes bears a few flowers on the stem above the stem leaves. The flowers have 5 triangular or lanceolate sepals that are reddish or green with red veins that are about 2-3 times smaller than the 5 white (sometimes pink) petals, also often with red or pink veins (darkest at the base). The petals are ovate to elliptic, 8-12 mm long, and 3-7 mm wide. The nectary of the flower is deep purple. Flowers have 5 stamens with red anthers. The flowers are quite large and showy compared to other brookfoams.

The USDA lists the primary common name as Richardson’s brookfoam, and this is perhaps the more common name. ITIS lists Alaska boykinia first. I’m definitely learning that if it is found in Alaska, it’s going to end up with some variation of “Alaska” or “Alaskan” in a name, and that’s what Alaskans will call it, no matter how widely distributed it is.

Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

None found. It is a common food source for bears, hence the name “bear flower”.

Distribution and Habitat

Alaska boykinia (Boykinia richardsonii) is native to Alaska and the Yukon Territory. It can be found across most of Alaska except for the southeast and Aleutians. It mostly grows in the interior and northern Alaska.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) listed one instance of Boykinia richardsonii in Sweden and there were a few reports from other sources in eastern Siberia. I’ve left both off the map since I found no concurring listing of the species in Sweden, and Flora of North America states that reports of B. richardsonii in eastern Siberia are erroneous.

B. richardsonii grows in sun or partial shade, often in poorly drained soils, near streams, grasslands or meadows, and near snow-beds.


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Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae  (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae  (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta  (land plants)
         SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
            DivisionTracheophyta  (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                  ClassMagnoliopsida 
                     SuperorderSaxifraganae 
                        OrderSaxifragales 
                           FamilySaxifragaceae  (saxifrages, saxifragacées)
                              GenusBoykinia Nutt. (brookfoam)
                                 SpeciesBoykinia richardsonii (Alaska boykinia, bear flower, Richardson’s brookfoam)

References and Further Reading

Classification and Taxonomy

Boykinia richardsonii (Hook.) Rothr., Taxonomic Serial No.: 501038, ITIS Database

Boykinia richardsonii (Hook.) Rothr., Richardson’s brookfoam, USDA Database

Map and Distribution

Boykinia richardsonii (Hook.) A.Gray, GBIF

Boykinia richardsonii, Richardson’s Brookfoam, NatureServe Explorer

Description and Information

Richardson’s Saxifrage or Richardson’s Brookfoam, Official Website of the North Slope Borough

6. Boykinia richardsonii (Hooker) Rothrock, Rep. (Annual) Board Regents Smithsonian Inst. 1867: 447. 1868., Flora of North America

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