Mukdenia – a Rocky Sax

Mukdenia is an odd monotypic genus in the widespread Saxifrage family, along with cousins heuchera, tiarella, and the namesake saxifraga. The odd genus name honors the former city of Mukden in Manchuria, which is now known as Shenyang. Mukden was the site of the largest modern day battle, prior to WWI. In case you missed it, the final score was Japan 1, Russia 0.

Several on-line sites, including that purveyor of accuracy, Wikipedia, proclaims there to be two species of Mukdenia, which is sadly incorrect. Although I’m sure Mukdenia rossii would like a sibling, one simply does not exist. I think of Mukdenia like Smucker’s…with a name like that, it has to be good…and it is.

Mukdenia naturally resides in China and Korea, where it can be found in some rather inhospitable places. I had to laugh when I read countless on-line articles that repeat the myth that mukdenia needs water during summer drought. It certainly doesn’t mind summer water, and will probably look better as a garden specimen with some irrigation. My first encounter with mukdenia in the wild was in fall 1997 on South Korea’s Mt. Sorak, where it thrived, growing in the rock cracks of a nearly vertical cliff (below)

Mukdenia in situ, Mt. Sorak, Korea

When we built our concrete crevice garden, mukdenia was one of the first plants I wanted to plant to see if it would mimic what I had seen in the wild. Below is our 2017 planting of Mukdenia rossii ‘Karasuba’ in late March/early April 2022, as it emerges in flower. The foliage continues to expand around the flowers. Our plants get 3-4 hours of sun each morning, then shade the remainder of the day. Winter hardiness is Zone 4a-7b.

Mukdenia rossii ‘Karasuba’ in crevice garden – late March
Mukdenia rossii ‘Karasuba’ in crevice garden – early April

2 thoughts on “Mukdenia – a Rocky Sax”

  1. Throughout my career as an horticulturist at the Montreal Botanic Garden which spanned 30 years, Mukdenia rossii thrived on neglect, almost. Snowless winters as well as coldest one didn’t set any setback on that plant. Aways looking to expand the collection then, I thought an other species (Mukdenia acanthifolia) was to be found in Korea. And my latest Plant Finder indicates two nurseries in Britain offers it.
    Now on your blog you seem to imply there is no such thing as another sibling to Mukdenia rossii. Confused….

    1. Mukdenia acanthifolia is in interesting plant name. The world’s top authorities either don’t list the name at all, list it as a synonym of M. rossii, or list it as an unresoloved species. The photos on-line as Mukdenia acanthifolia are Oresitrophe rupifraga.

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