Northwestern saxifrage is a perennial with a single erect stem, from 10-30 cm high arising from a cluster of basal leaves. The stems lack leaves and are unbranched (except as part of the inflorescence). The leaves are variable according to the variety, but are generally have elliptic, lanceolate, rhombic-ovate or triangular blades with short to long petioles The thick blade is usually 2-4 cm in length, but may occasionally reach as long as 12 cm. The width ranges from 1-2 cm wide but on occasion, may be as much as 6 cm. The leaf margins are usually entire, but occasionally may be lightly toothed.
The inflorescence is a cymose-panicle. The 5 petals may be white, yellowish, or greenish-white, or they may be absent. They range from 2-3 mm long and ovate, elliptic, or obovate in shape..
var. integrifolia- Petals are white, 1.5-3 mm long, ovate to obovate in shape. Leaf blades narrowly rhombic to ovate-lanceolate, narrowed gradually to broad petioles equal to or usually shorter than the blades. Found west of the Cascades from British Columbia south to Lincoln County OR, and east along the Columbia River Gorge to Wasco County, OR.
variety claytoniaefolia- Petals are white, 1.5-3 mm long, ovate to obovate in shape. Leaves broadly deltoid to ovate or lanceolate, narrowed abruptly to thin petioles often as long or longer than the blades (See photo at tope of page.) . The leaf surfaces are usually smooth. Found east of the Cascade Mts. in Washington and Oregon from Okanogan County south to south-central Oregon, and down the Columbia River Gorge to the Willamette Valley. To the east, it may be found in southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and western Idaho.
variety apetala- Flowers have no petals. Inflorescence is tightly packed into a dense cluster. No lower branches of the inflorescence are visible on the stem. Anthers yellow. The leaves are rhombic-lanceolate, narrowing gradually to wide petioles that are shorter than the blades. Found east of the Cascade Mts. in Washington from Okanogan County to Yakima County.
variety leptopetala- The flowers are yellowish or greenish-white, often with purple or pink coloration. Petals 1-2.5 mm long, spatulate or oblanceolate in shape, 2.5-3.5 times longer than wide. The inflorescence is open, the lower branches of the inflorescence are 1-2 cm apart. Anthers orange. The leaves are rhombic-lanceolate, narrowing gradually to wide petioles that are shorter than the blades. Found from southern British Columbia south along the east side of the Cascades to northern Oregon. It may be found west into the Columbia River Gorge and to the east into eastern Washington, western Idaho, and possibly as far east as western Montana.
variety columbiana- The flowers are yellowish or greenish-white, often with purple or pink coloration. Petals 1-2.5 mm long, spatulate or oblanceolate in shape, 2.5-3.5 times longer than wide. Leaves mostly rhombic-ovate, narrowed gradually to thin petioles up to as long as the blade (See photo below.). Found in the Blue and Wallowa mountains of southeast Washington and northeastern Oregon, central and southwestern Idaho, northern Nevada, and northeastern California.
Northwestern saxifrage may be found on prairies, grassy slopes, and meadows which are seasonally moist in the spring but dry in the summer.
Northwestern saxifrage may be found from British Columbia south to California and east to central Idaho and Nevada.
In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between the elevations of 100'-3400' from near Crown Point in the west to the eastern portion of the gorge.
The photo above shows a close-up view of a basal leaf of northwestern saxifrage as seen along the Three Bench Loop Trail above Doug's Beach (east of Lyle, WA) in the Columbia River Gorge...................February 12, 2006. Note the broad, mostly glabrous blade which narrows abruptly to the petiole.
Basal leaves of northwestern saxifrage from the lower Deschutes River, OR....3/22/97. This is variety claytoniaefolia, as the leaf blade is deltoid or triangular in shape and it tapers abruptly to the petiole.