Saxifrage, Golden Opposite and Alternate-leaved

Saxifrage / Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter / Edible

There is a couple of types of Saxifrage, they all tend to grow in woodlands and provide good foraging through all season. Typically slightly dry but a nice addition to most dishes.

Common Names

Alternate-leaved Saxifrage

Golden Saxifrage

Botanical Name

Chrysoplenium oppositifolium

Chrysoplenium alternifolium

 Meaning of Botanical Name

The etymological root of the binomial name Chrysoplenium is derived from Latin chrysitis meaning ‘golden’ and spen meaning ‘spleen’.  This refers to the flowers which are golden in colour and with no petals, which is possibly where the spleen part of the name comes from. The species name of both plants in this genus is self explanatory and refers to the leaves, folium, foliage and alternate or opposite.  So opposite leaves or alternate leaves.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom, Plantae

Clade, Tracheophytes

Clade, Angiopserms

Clade, Eudicots

Order, Saxifragales

Family, Saxifragaceae

Genus,  Chrysoplenium

Species, C.oppositefolium C.alternifolium

 Known Hazards

None known for the plant iteself,

Worth reading up about liverfluke as growing in very damp environments this could be something to be wary of, we have a nice piece on liver fluke right here

What is Liver Fluke?

Could be confused with

There’s really not much this low growing plant could be confused with, especially once you know where to look for it.

Food Plant of

The caterpillars of some moths and butterflies eat Saxifrage as well as Deer, Rabbits, Mice, Shrews and other small mammals.

Range and Distribution

Opposite-leaved is much more common, and is found throughout the British Isles.

Alternate-leaved is absent in Ireland and rare in the east and south east of England, but widespread in the north and west of Britain.


Both species like woodland flushes, stream sides, wet springs, wet rocks on acid rocks and are often found growing together. Alternate-leaved Saxifrage is slightly more restricted to base-rich moving ground water and also likes upland mossy flushes.

Physical Characteristics

Both are low growing, often forming dense mats of foliage and flowers.


Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

The leaves associated with the flowers are of various sizes, 15 to 20mm across, circular and have rounded wavy ‘teeth’.  The leaves below the flowers, taper gradually to the stem, which is round, angular and sometimes square.  The basal leaves are a much darker green than those further up and not cordate.  The leaves on the stem are opposite and the leaf stalk, (petiole), can be shorter than or as long as the leaf itself.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage

The leaves associated with the flowers are very similar indeed.  The leaves on the stem are alternate, but the most obvious difference between these two plants are the base leaves.  They are cordate, (heart shaped), and have a much larger petiole attaching it to the stem.


Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

3-4mm across with 4-5 sepals.  The petals are absent.

Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage

As above but slightly larger, 5-6mm across.

As the name suggests, it is the leaves associated with the flowers in both of these species, that are golden, not the flowers themselves.


There is no apparent folklore associated with Golden-leaved Saxifrage, although Chrysoplenium oppositifolium is the county flower of Clackmanannshire in Scotland.  I did try to do some digging to find out why it was chosen but came to a dead end.

Edible Use

The leaves of both make a nice addition to a salad.  They taste a little peppery with a nice crunch.  Some folk find them slightly bitter, but mixed through a salad with other greens, this is not an overwhelming flavour.  It could also be added to pesto’s, smoothies, juices and used as a pot herb.


None known

Tips and Observations

Use a sharp knife to cut the stems of the plant, otherwise you’ll end up with lots of muddy roots amongst your greens.  Wash the leaves well before consumption, again, they’ll likely be a bit muddy due to the nature of where they like to grow.


Identification is key!

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