Tolmie’s Saxifrage (Saxifraga tolmiei)
Yet another of the many northwest saxifrage species; this one uncommon but easily identifiable by the low mats of thick, sedum- like leaves (the spotted saxifrage also has thick fleshy leaves, but they grow in rosette clusters). Like sedum, this species lives in places with very short growing seasons where snow cover may not melt until well into August — the likely story behind this huge patch we found high on Vista Ridge on Mount Hood.
This saxifrage, found only in the Cascades and northern Sierra, was discovered during a botanizing foray led by William Fraser Tolmie along with two native guides into an area northwest of Mount Rainier in 1833. On that trip Tolmie also climbed a snowy peak, possibly Tolmie’s Peak that now bears his name within the national park. Tolmie was inspired by the Pacific Northwest travels of John Scouler and Sir William J. Hooker, who were faculty while he attended the University of Glasgow. This plant, Tolmie’s Mariposa Lily, Youth-on-age (tolmiea menziesii)–another saxifrage family member–and Tolmie’s Onion, discovered by Lewis and Clark, all commemorate this noted Scottish botanist and Hudson Bay Company medical officer.