Saxifraga hirculus | Marsh Saxifrage



Conservation status

Future ProspectsFavourable
Overall  Assessment of Conservation StatusFavourable
Overall Trend in Conservation StatusN/A
Source: NPWS 2013.

IUCN Conservation Status
Ireland (1)*
Critically Endangered
Europe (2)
Data Deficient
Global (3)
Not Evaluated

Sources:(1) Curtis, T.G.F. and McGough H.N. (1988); (2) Gygax, l 2013 (3) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2

* This Red List is acknowledged as needing to be updated. The Red List category shown is updated from that appearing in the original 1988 document, due to changes in the Red List categories.

Legal status

Protected by the following legal instruments:

  • Habitats Directive [92/42/EEC] Annex II, Annex IV
  • Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) Appendix I
  • Wildlife Act (1976).
  • Flora Protection Order 1999
  • Wildlife (Amendment) Act (2000)
  • The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995.

Native status


Species Biology


A short plant, to 35cms, Leaves entire, alternate, lanceolate, the lower leaves stalked. Stems with reddish hairs, leaves also with reddish hairs at edges and / or on stalks. Stoloniferous.

Ovary superior, 5 sepals, 5petals. Stamens 10, carpels 2 -united.

Sepals are free, and turn down after flowering. Petals are free, entire and bright yellow often with many small orange spots. Flowers to c. 25mm often solitary and usually less than four.

Flowering August-September.

Sources: Parnell J., Curtis, T., 2012; Stace C., 1997.


The species can occur in a variety of wet, mineral rich habitats, however in Ireland due to its very local occurence it invariably inhabits mineral rich flushes on blanket bog (PB2, PB3).

Due to it's low growing stature it can be out-competed in taller vegetation.

Habitats include but are not necessarily limited to;

  • Upland blanket bog (PB2)
  • Lowland blanket bog (PB3)
  • Rich fen and flush (PF1) - FLUSH ONLY

Sources: NPWS 2013; NPWS SAC Site Synopses; Fossitt, J.A. 2001.

Threats faced

Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing

Source: NPWS 2013.

Threats identified in the Article 17 reporting document accord to a large extent with those Threats identified at a European Level for the species in the IUCN Red List  Version 2014.02. In that listing additional threat were identified;

  • Drainage of wetlands
  • Peat extraction

Source: Gygax, l 2013

Conservation actions

In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 no Conservation Measure were outlined other than;

  • Continued legal protection of the species and its habitats inside and outside of Natura 2000 sites

There have been studies on the conservation biology, and genetic monitoring of Saxifraga hirculus on the island by Irish and U.K. researchers since 2010.

Source: NPWS 2013.


World distribution(GBIF)

Widespread distribution worldwide although some population declines have occurred within Europe. Generally associated with more northern territories. Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia along with small pockets distributed throughout Asia.

Accuracy of world distribution shown in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) map below will be constrained by, amongst other factors, data held but not shared by countries and organizations not participating in the GBIF.

Irish distribution

Marsh Saxifrage is limited to Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland and Antrim in the North East. Sites in the midlands have been lost due to exploitation of the bog system and drainage.

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

How can you help

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of the Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus) in Ireland. Should you observe the species, please submit sighting to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into where the species is most abundant in Ireland and we might also be able to detect regional variations. Please submit any sightings and photographs at:

All records submitted on line can be viewed on Google Maps – once checked and validated these will be added to the database and made available for conservation and research.

Further information

For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght



Curtis, T.G.F.. and McGough H.N. (1988) The Irish Red Date List 1 Vascular Plants. Wildlife Service, Dublin.Published by The Stationery Office.

Fossitt, J.A. (2001) A Guide to Habitats in Ireland. The Heritage Council.

Gygax, A., Illarionova, I., Juillet, N. & Melnyk, V. 2013. Saxifraga hirculus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 26 September 2014.

NPWS, 2013.The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland.  Species Assessments Volume 3. Version 1.0. Unpublished Report, National Parks & Wildlife Services. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland.

Parnell J., Curtis T., (2012) Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press.

Stace, C. 1997. New Flora of the British Isles, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 26 September 2014.