Two people to thank for the photographs today. The first image is from Anne Elliott, aka annkelliott@Flickr (original image via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool), while the second image is from Anna Kadlec@UBC Botanical Garden forums: (original via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum). Thanks to both of you!
Spotted or matted saxifrage has a western North American – eastern Eurasian distribution, where it preferentially grows in rocky areas of mid- to high elevations. It is perennial, typically reaching 20cm (8in.) in height. The word Saxifraga means “stone-breaker”, a characteristic well-illustrated in Anna’s other photograph. Webb and Gornall in A Manual of Saxifrages explain the epithet bronchialis was thought by Gmelin (in 1769) to be derived “from information given to Linnaeus that the plant was used by the natives of Siberia as a cure for respiratory complaints”.
The authors also note that this was likely one of the last species to be named by Linnaeus for his Species Plantarum, as there are no herbarium specimens in the Linnean herbarium, London bearing this species name. The likeliest explanation is that the specimen LINN 575.37, named as Saxifraga aspera on the sheet, was recognized by Linnaeus as being a different species (and he named it Saxifraga bronchialis in the book). However, upon assertion that it was a different species, Linnaeus should also have annotated (written a note on) the sheet with the new name, and it appears he neglected to do so. In other words, Linnaeus published the name Saxifraga bronchialis without a physical specimen to back it up (generally a naming no-no), unless one makes the positive assumption that he intended to add the name to that specimen but forgot.