Nelson’s saxifrage – Micranthes nelsoniana

Alaska Wildflowers | White

Nelson’s saxifrage

Micranthes nelsoniana

Common Names

Nelson’s saxifrage
dotted saxifrage
heartleaf saxifrage


Saxifraga nelsoniana


M. nelsoniana var. aestivalis
M. nelsoniana var. carlottae
M. nelsoniana var. cascadensis
M. nelsoniana var. insularis
M. nelsoniana var. nelsoniana
M. nelsoniana var. porsildiana

Genus: Micranthes
Family: Saxifragaceae
Order: Saxifragales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Nelson’s saxifrage (also commonly called heartleaf saxifrage) is a white-flowering perennial herb. It has a branched caudex and rhizomes. It has rounded basal leaves from a long rounded petiole. The leaf base is cordate and has crenate edges (round-toothed). The leaves are often thick and fleshy, but can be thin (see note on subspecies below). The inflorescences are approximately 10-flowered, spreading, and growing from long, purple, hairy, stems. The flower petals are white to pinkish and may have greenish-yellow, or orange spots. The petals are ovate and are longer than the white sepals. The stamen are about 2-3 mm long, white, and club-shaped with pink anthers. The carpels are connate, united at the base, and green-yellow turning to red or purple after pollination.

Of the six subspecies, three are found in Alaska. The subspecies var. insularis has thick, fleshy leafblades and tangled inflorescence. Var. nelsoniana has a purple or brown-tipped inflorescence. Var. porsildiana has thinner leaf blades that are not fleshy.


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

The subspecies M. nelsoniana ssp. nelsoniana has documented use by Alaska natives as a food or dietary aid. The leaves are a source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The leaves are eaten raw or mixed with seal or walrus oil. The oil would be used to keep the leaves fresh for an extended period of time.

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Distribution and Habitat

Micranthes nelsoniana can be found in Alaska, western Canada, Washington, Oregon, and eastern Siberia. It lives in a variety of habitats including forests, moist bogs and riverbeds, and in subalpine areas.


RankCommon Name (Scientific Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilySaxifragaceae (saxifrages, saxifragacées)
                              GenusMicranthes Haw. (alpine saxifrage)
                                 SpeciesMicranthes nelsoniana (D. Don) Small – Nelson’s saxifrage, dotted saxifrage, heartleaf saxifrage

References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers

Classification and Taxonomy

M. nelsoniana (D. Don) Small Taxonomic Serial No.: 895014, ITIS Database


Saxifraga nelsoniana ssp. nelsoniana Common names: Brook Saxifrage, Native American Ethnobotany Database

Map and Distribution

M. nelsoniana (D.Don) Small Published in: N.L.Britton & al. (eds.), N. Amer. Fl. 22: 147 (1905), GBIF Database

Description and Information

M. nelsoniana (D. Don) Small in N. L. Britton et al., N. Amer. Fl. 22: 147. 1905, Flora of North America

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