© 2016-2019 Erika Alin

Encrusted Saxifrage

Saxifraga paniculata

Encrusted saxifrages wind along crevices on cliffs and headlands on the lake’s far northern coast. Like many arctic plants, they conserve warmth and moisture by growing in dense, ground-hugging mats and mounds. Each plant produces a tight rosette of stiff waxy leaves, which secrete lime-rich waters that evaporate into white crusts from pores along their upper borders. Many rosettes are no larger than a silver dollar. 

I saw my first rosettes on a windy headland late one June, bearing flowers with deep yellow centers and petals creamy white as the moon. Most rosettes didn't flower. Of those that did, some bore only a handful of blossoms while others bore twenty to thirty blossoms. Flowering or not, the rosettes were a sight to behold, hugging the dark rock with their crusts gleaming in the sun.