Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Lettuceleaf Saxifrage - Micranthes micranthidifolia   (Haworth) Small
Members of Saxifragaceae:
Members of Micranthes with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Saxifragaceae
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Author(Haworth) Small
DistributionThroughout the Mountains; rarely into the western Piedmont -- in Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County, as well as into the Brushy Mountains and the South Mountains.

This is a central and southern Appalachian endemic species. It ranges from PA south to northwestern SC and northern GA.
AbundanceFairly common, to locally common, in the Mountains; rare to locally uncommon in the western Piedmont ranges. The NCNHP's rank of S3 is clearly too conservative, as it is found in practically all Mountain counties, and into the western Piedmont at higher elevations. The website editors have given a State Rank of S3S4, but S4 might be just as appropriate.
HabitatThis is a "wetland" species of uplands! It requires wet places in the middle and higher elevations (primarily), growing almost exclusively in seepages and along small streams passing through rich hardwood forests. It can occur in Rich Cove Forests, Northern Hardwood Forests, Boulderfield Forests, around wet cliffs and waterfalls, and certainly High Elevation Seeps -- but always in cool to cold water and in shady places.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis species should be readily identifiable by its habitat and its leaves. It has a clump of basal leaves, as do others in the genus, but in this species they are quite long and relatively narrow, about 8 inches long and about 1-2 inches wide, quite thick and shiny (almost evergreen-looking), and sharply serrated along the margins; the shape is essentially oblong with a tapering base. The clump of leaves, spreading outward from the base of the stem, give it a colloquial name of "brook-lettuce". The flowering stalk is about 2-2.5 feet tall and contains a wide-spreading panicle of numerous tiny white flowers. Details of the flowers are not essential for identification, unlike with M. careyana vs. M. caroliniana -- the leaf shape and texture is enough. Weakley (2018) mentions "This plant is gathered in considerable quantities as a spring green in the mountains of our area, and can sometimes be seen for sale in local grocery stores." Let us hope this does not lead to a strong decline in numbers in upcoming years. You should be able to find this species fairly readily in seepages in rich montane forests, though it can be a bit local and it may take a few such walks to find it.
Taxonomic CommentsAll NC species of Micranthes were formerly included in the genus Saxifraga.

Other Common Name(s)Mountain-lettuce, Branch-lettuce, Brook-lettuce
State RankS3 [S3S4]
Global RankG5
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