Saxifraga Florulenta named the symbol of Piedmont by 500 experts. Clarence would be pleased...
Elette le piante simbolo di ognuna delle 20 regioni italiane... Quella scelta per rappresentare il Piemonte è la nostra bella ed endemica sassifraga dell'Argentera (Saxifraga florulenta). L’iniziativa, promossa dalla Società Botanica Italiana, è stata coordinata da Lorenzo Peruzzi, professore di Botanica sistematica presso il Dipartimento di Biologia dell’Università di Pisa e Direttore dell’Orto e Museo Botanico. A votare sono stati oltre 500 appassionati ed esperti botanici da tutta Italia che hanno eletto le piante vincitrici a partire da una rosa di candidature, con un meccanismo per certi versi simile a quello delle primarie.
La pianta più votata in assoluto è stata la sassifraga dell’Argentera, pianta monocarpica (fruttifica una volta sola), rupicola, sopravvissuta alle glaciazioni, con stupendi fiori rosa, e caratteristica delle Alpi Marittime italiane e francese.
Elected the symbol plants of each of the 20 Italian regions... That choice to represent Piedmont is our beautiful and endemic saxifrage of the Argentera (Saxifraga florulenta). The initiative, promoted by the Italian Botanical Society, was coordinated by Lorenzo Peruzzi, professor of Systematic Botany at the Department of Biology of the University of Pisa and Director of the Garden and Botanical Museum. More than 500 enthusiasts and botanists from all over Italy voted to vote, choosing the winning plants starting from a shortlist of candidates, with a mechanism similar in some ways to the primaries.The most voted plant of all was the sassifraga dell'Argentera, monocarpica plant (fruit only once), rupicola, survivor of the glaciations, with beautiful pink flowers, and characteristic of the Italian and French Maritime Alps.
With thanks to Elisabetta Massardo who took the photo of Saxifraga Florulenta for MARVELS, page 116, for alerting us to this story.
To remind you of the importance of this plant to Clarence, permit me to quote from Valerie's MARVELS, page 117:
Clarence had one other complaint: the lack of interesting wildflowers in the area, and he confessed to Burnat that ‘botanically I have done very little. It is much less rich here than at Val Pesio, and even when I climb up to the lakes of Valmasca, d’Agnel, the Meraviglie, and M. Bégo (where nothing escapes the goats!) I always find the same old plants.’ And he had spent many fruitless, frustrating hours searching for the rare Saxifraga florulenta.
His persistence paid off. By the end of the summer he related to Burnat that he had finally found that elusive plant in bloom. Although Clarence does not describe the actual moment he saw it, the great plant collector Reginald Farrer (1880–1920) was extravagant in his description of his sighting of it in 1910 on the Col de Cerise:
‘Grey obscurity enveloped all the slope, swirling and shifting, lightening and darkening. And now the sharp zigzags of the track brought me up against the buttress of Mercantour. For an instant the mist dissolved into a pearly shade. And in that momentary rending of the veil I found myself looking straight into the face of Saxifraga florulenta. For a moment I could not believe my eyes; for another moment I felt convinced, insanely, that some botanist must have put the rosette there as a practical joke . . . Then, when my reason had ceased rocking on its seat, I rent the welkin with a cry of triumph.’
After his great yell, Farrer calmed down and ‘in awe-stricken silence contemplated for the first time the Ancient King of his race, the most wonderful plant in all the ranges of the Alps.
The Ancient King is a large and rare succulent with a small range, found exclusively within the central section of the Maritime Alps between Tende and Argentera. Fussy about its location, it finds its preferred home in crevices of acidic rock, often hiding in hard-to-reach spots. Year by year, over decades, its fleshy leaves multiply into a perfect rosette until it is mature enough to flower. Then (the eloquent Farrer again); ‘Up from its heart comes a stout glandular spike which develops into a stocky spire, of some eight or ten inches, very thickly set with nodding flowers of a purple rose, most wonderful to see.’ Its 40 or more bell-shaped flowers are impossible to miss. But that’s it; once having achieved its reproductive climax, it withers and dies. No wonder the Ancient King used to be the emblem of the modern-day Parc National du Mercantour, which includes the Vallée des Merveilles and the Val Fontanalba.