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Brook Lettuce, Mountain Lettuce, Branch Lettuce, Lettuceleaf Saxifrage, Deer Tongue - Micranthes micranthidifolia


Family: Saxifragaceae - Saxifrage family Genus Common Name: Saxifrage (Alpine Saxifrage) Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Micranthes micranthidifolia - Brook Lettuce, Mountain Lettuce, Branch Lettuce, Lettuceleaf Saxifrage, Deer Tongue. Based on genetic studies the Saxifraga genus has been split up, with some species remaining in Saxifraga, one being classified in the monotypic genus Cascadia, and 47 species in the new genus Micranthes. The easiest diagnostic for Micranthes vs Saxifraga is that the former has only basal leaves (or any cauline leaves may be crowded at the bottom of the stem,) while the latter (Saxifraga) will also have cauline leaves, although they may be very small.

Brook Lettuce, formerly Saxifraga micranthidifolia, is now classified as Micranthes micranthidifolia. It grows in the wet soils of mountain brook beds and rocky seeps in the central and southern Appalachian mountains, from southern Pennsylvania southward to north Georgia and South Carolina. It continues to be used as a leafy green in spring salads, as most of the common names imply.

Found in:
GA, KY, MD, NC, PA, SC, TN, VA, WV, GS

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Micranthes micranthidifolia

Distribution of Micranthes micranthidifolia in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 Sep 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Little River Trail, Elkmont Area Date: 2015-May-04Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The tiny flowers of Micranthes micranthidifolia are about .5 inch across, and at a glance look like just white splashes hovering above a wet area. But they (like the flowers of most Micranthes species) deserve a closer look, and they are delightful. The five stalked, white petals are reflexed and have a pair of yellow marks at the base of the blade. The petals hide 5 strongly reflexed green sepals except where they show between the petal stalks. The reflexed petals show off the 10 striking, white, club-shaped filaments which are topped by orange anthers, all these surrounding two creamy-green pistils.
Micranthes micranthidifolia

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Little River Trail, Elkmont Area Date: 2015-May-04Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Brook Lettuce grows up to about 3 feet high. The leaves are basal, and above them the hairy stem(s) branches into multiple inflorescences (thryses) carrying many tiny white flowers. The stem is leafless except for some leafy bracts at the nodes.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Micranthes micranthidifolia

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Little River Trail, Elkmont Area Date: 2015-May-04Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves of Micranthes micranthidifolia are basal and up to 8 inches long. They are distinctly toothed, and carried on a flattened petiole that is difficult to distinguish from the attenuated base of the leaf. These leaves are gathered in the spring for use in salads.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Micranthes micranthidifolia

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer