Micranthes nivalis

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Micranthes nivalis
Saxifraga nivalis close-up trimmed upernavik 2007-07-02.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Saxifragaceae
Genus: Micranthes
M. nivalis
Binomial name
Micranthes nivalis
(L.) Small
  • Dermasea nivalis (L.) Haw.
  • Micranthes kumlienii Small
  • Micranthes nivalis (L.) Small
  • Robertsonia nivalis (L.) Link
  • Saxifraga kumlienii (Small) Fedde
  • Saxifraga nivalis f. longipetiolata Engl. & Irmsch.
  • Saxifraga obtusa Nasarow

Micranthes nivalis is a plant species in the saxifrage family. It is commonly called snow saxifrage or (ambiguously) alpine saxifrage.

Micranthes nivalis is a perennial plant which grows on damp, shady, base-rich rocks and cliffs where it normally occurs in crevices and on ledges in locations where it cannot be crowded out by competing plants. In Britain the highest altitudes are recorded in Scotland, from 365 metres (1,198 ft) at Quiraing in the Western Isles,to 1,210 metres (3,970 ft) on Ben Lawers in Perth & Kinross. However it has been claimed as high as 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) in the Cairngorms.[2] It grows to a height of 5–20 centimetres (2.0–7.9 in) with a leafless, hairy stalk. The flower is greenish white turning reddish as it ages with 5 petals and 5 sepals. The leathery, greyish green, rhomboidal leaves make up a rosette at the base of the stem and lie close to the soil surface, and are only sparsely haired.[3]

The Latin specific epithet nivalis means "as white as snow', or "growing near snow".[4]

This species is also found in Norway, Ireland, Svalbard, northern Germany, Poland, Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland.[3][5]

The plant was first described by Carl Linnaeus in Flora Lapponica (1737), as a result of his expedition to Lapland.[6]

Some populations from the Canadian Province of Quebec have been recognized as a distinct species by some authors,[7][8] a variety of M. nivalis others:[9][10]

  • Saxifraga gaspensis Fernald
    • Saxifraga nivalis var. gaspensis (Fernald) B. Boivin
    • Micranthes gaspensis (Fernald) Small

is distinguished from var. nivalis by smaller inflorescences and narrower leaves. It is known only from the Shickshock Mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula of southeastern Québec. It has been suggested that this may be a hybrid of M. nivalis and M. tenuis; further study is warranted.[7]


  1. ^ "Synonyms of Micranthes nivalis". Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Saxifraga nivalis". Online Atlas of British and Irish Flora. Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Snow Saxifrage Micranthes nivalis". LuontoPortti / NatureGate. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  4. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for Gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. ISBN 184533731X.
  5. ^ "Micranthes nivalis". Flora of North America. efloras .org. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  6. ^ Linnaeus, Carl von (1753). Caroli Linnaei ... Species plantarum :exhibentes plantas rite cognitas, ad genera relatas, cum differentiis specificis, nominibus trivialibus, synonymis selectis, locis natalibus, secundum systema sexuale digestas... 1. Biodiversity History Library.
  7. ^ a b Flora of North America v 8 p 65.
  8. ^ Fernald, Merritt Lyndon (191). "CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE GRAY HERBARIUM OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY.— NEW SERIES, NO. L". Rhodora. 19 (224): 141–142.
  9. ^ Small, John Kunkel (1918). "North American Flora". p. 552.
  10. ^ Boivin, Joseph Robert Bernard (1966). "Enumération des plantes du Canada". Le Naturaliste Canadien. 93 (5): 583–646.