Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Triumph in Shade

Opposite-Leaved Golden-Saxifrage, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Flowering at this time of the year locally along shady stream banks and woodland flushes, the Opposite-Leaved Golden-Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) is a wonderful, almost ephemeral plant. Its delicate yellow-green flowers that lack petals are found on stems that will root to form often dense patches, rarely rising over 10 cm high (1). Thriving as it does in such wet but moreover shady conditions, C. oppositifolium is remarkably adapted to the problems associated with living in low levels of light. As a shade adapted plant, C. oppositifolium has developed thinner leaves than its light loving close relatives (other members of the Saxifragaceae, eg. Saxifraga spathularis). Thin leaves are prone to sugar leakage, which can lead to fatal fungal infections. C. oppositifolium counteracts this threat by using sedoheptulose as its principal soluble sugar (2). This, being a 7-carbon sugar, is not readily metabolised by fungi giving C. oppositifolium a distinct advantage.

  1. Sterry, 2004 Collins Complete Guide to Irish Wildlife p. 208
  2. Crawford, 2008. Plants at the Margin: Ecological Limits and Climate Change p. 256

1 comment:

  1. What with the other Saxifrages and your other recent postings, Ireland does seem to have its share of plant species. Are any of these indigenous? I hope your frogspawn survives this time around. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell