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Saxifraga (Stonebreakers)

Genus names:

  • Scientific/Vitenskapelig Saxifraga
  • English/Engelsk Stone-breakers
  • Norway/Norsk Sildrer

Saxifraga is a genus containing about 440 known species of Holarctic perennial plants, making it the largest genus in the family Saxifragaceae. They are commonly called saxifrages or stone-breakers. The Latin word Saxifraga means literally "stone-breaker", from Latin saxum "rock" or "stone" + frangere "to break". It is usually explained by reference to certain saxifrages' ability to settle in the cracks of rocks, which they may in fact wear down by bioerosion to the point of splitting. As the origin of the name predates the discovery of the rock-dwelling members, and dates back to the medical botany writings of Dioscorides in the 1st Century, this is problematic. An alternative meaning of the name rests in the small bulbils that grow around the base of the grassland-living type species S. granulata. By the Doctrine of Signatures these, together with its kidney shaped leaves, were thought by the ancients to indicate a medicinal use for treatment of urinary calculi.

The genera Saxifragopsis (saxifragopsises), Saxifragella are sometimes included in Saxifraga. In recent DNA based phylogenetic analyses of the Saxifragaceae, the sections Micranthes and Merkianae are shown to be more closely related to the Boykinia and Heuchera clades, and the most recent floras separate these groups as the genus Micranthes.