Plants densely cushion- to loosely mat-forming, (stems trailing), not stoloniferous, not rhizomatous, with ± woody caudex. Leaves basal and proximal cauline, (marcescent, crowded); petiole flattened, 2-6(-12) mm; blade elliptic to obovate or spatulate, 3(-5)-lobed apically (lobes oblong-elliptic), 4-15(-25) mm, ± fleshy, margins entire, sparsely short glandular-ciliate (mostly proximally), (nonsecreting hydathodes present adaxially at each lobe apex), apex obtuse, surfaces sparsely to densely short stipitate-glandular. Inflorescences 2-5-flowered cymes, sometimes solitary flowers, to 2-15(-20) cm, densely clear- or cream- to pinkish yellow-tipped stipitate-glandular; bracts sessile. Flowers: sepals erect to spreading, triangular or ovate to elliptic, margins stipitate-glandular, surfaces stipitate-glandular; petals white, proximally greenish to yellowish tinged, not spotted but sometimes striate, elliptic or oblanceolate to obovate, (1.5-)3-7(-15) mm, equaling or longer than sepals; ovary inferior. 2n = 78, 80.
The North American representatives of Saxifraga cespitosa are very variable. It seems futile at this time to recognize any of the infrapecific taxa that have been described, although five are frequently distinguished as either subspecies or varieties. Expressions of all of the purported distinguishing characters overlap or have little apparent geographic or ecologic correlation. The only Southern Hemisphere representatives of Saxifraga are closely related to S. cespitosa. Reports of S. rosacea Moench from southern Greenland are misidentifications of this species.
Plant: perennial herb Leaves: cauline, usually crowded, sessile; blades obovate, 0.5-1 cm long, 3-5 lobed at tip, the base attenuate INFLORESCENCE: 2-5 cm tall, sparsely covered with pink to pale yellow-tipped glandular hairs; peduncle mostly with 1 leaf-like bract near middle Flowers: usually 1-3; sepals erect to spreading, elliptic; petals 3-5 mm long, longer than sepals, elliptic to obovate, falling early; filaments lanceolate; ovary inferior in flower; nectaries inconspicuous or 0 Fruit: FRUITS 2(-3) valved; SEEDS smooth to ridged Misc: Damp rocky areas; 3200 m (10500 ft); Jul-Aug Notes: CAUDEX much branched, slender, somewhat woody; bulblets 0 REFERENCES: Elvander, Patrick. 1992. Saxifragaceae. Ariz.-Nev. Acad. Sci. 26(1)2.