Prickly Saxifrage – Saxifraga tricuspidata

Alaska Wildflowers | White

Prickly saxifrage

Saxifraga tricuspidata

Common Names

prickly saxifrage
three toothed saxifrage


Leptasea tricuspidata


none – Although I have seen reference to an entire-leaved form

Genus: Saxifraga
Family: Saxifragaceae
Order: Saxifragales
full classification

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

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Identification and Information

Prickly saxifrage is a loosely mat-forming perennial herb. The mats are formed of crowded and overlapping narrowly oblong basal leaves. The leaves are leathery, green, often with reddish tips, with 1-3 lobes with 3 spiny teeth at their apex. The leaves may be red or reddish, especially early in the season. It has numerous stems, 3-25 cm tall. Leaves on the stem are much smaller, lack a pedicel (attached directly to the stem), and are sparsely spaced.

Stems have an inflorescence of a few to several (3-10) 5-petaled flowers at or near the terminus. The elliptic or ovate petals are white or cream, sometimes pale yellow, often with yellow or orange spots. The spots can also be red or purple. Petals are 4-7mm long. Sepals are erect to ascending and light green (sometimes purplish). Bracts are also red or purple-tinged. The white stamens are about as long as the petals, sometimes longer, and have white anthers. The yellow to white pistil has a single white.

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Distribution and Habitat

Saxifraga tricuspidata is native to Alaska and all of Canada and the west coast of Greenland. It is listed as imperiled in Michigan. It is listed as imperiled in Michigan (found only in Isle Royal National Park) and in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prickly saxifrage can be found in dry meadows and open sandy or gravelly sites, like talus slopes and rocky alpine areas, as well as stony tundra.


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

There are few specific uses listed for Saxifraga tricuspidata. The Inuktitut of western Canada used prickly saxifrage as a food source, eating the flowers raw. Other species in the genus Saxifraga are also eaten raw or cooked, usually the flowers or leaves. None are known to be toxic. There are no known medical uses.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae  (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae  (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta  (land plants)
DivisionTracheophyta  (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
FamilySaxifragaceae  (saxifrages, saxifragacées)
GenusSaxifraga L. (saxifrage)
SpeciesSaxifraga tricuspidata Rottb. (prickly saxifrage, three toothed saxifrage)

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References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 58


S. tricuspidata Rottb. Taxonomic Serial No.: 24246, ITIS Database

S. tricuspidata Rottb. three toothed saxifrage, USDA Database

Map and Distribution

Saxifraga tricuspidata, Prickly Saxifrage, NatureServe Explorer

S. tricuspidata Rottb., Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)


Saxifragaceae S. tricuspidata Rottb. Three Toothed Saxifrage, Native American Ethnobotany Database

Description and Information

14. Saxifraga tricuspidata Rotbøll, Skr. Kiøbenhavnske Selsk. Laerd. Elsk. 10: 446. 1770., Flora of North America

S. tricuspidata Rottb., Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

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