Purple Saxifrage

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Last updated: 22 February 2011

The purple saxifrage is one of Wales' most hardy Arctic Alpine flowers, growing in extremely cold and inhospitable mountainous regions.

In this clip from Iolo's Welsh Safari, Iolo Williams teams up local reserve manager - Hywel Roberts to trek up to Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia in search of this hardy little, flowering plant.

It is the first Arctic Alpine flower every year and is a great indication of what is to come. On Snowdon it begins flowering in mid January but at Cwm Idwal is much later which is north westerly facing and much cooler, especially in the rock crevices.

The plant literally clings onto rock faces, cascading down but sheep grazing is an issue for this plant. Hikers also may be responsible for some accidental damage to some plants as they scramble over boulders where the plants grow.

The purple saxifrage has short stalks, with vibrant purple or lilac petals which continue flowering throughout the summer.

If global warming continues, this plants future hangs in the balance and it may end up only being found further north in colder climates but time will tell.

The area here is renowned for it's plant life and 'hanging gardens' near the 'Devil's Kitchen' - where a crack in the rocks allows steam to rise up from the valley below as moist air comes into contact with the rock face, causing it to cool and condense as clouds.

Apparently sailors out at sea used to see the dark clouds swirling up above the cliffs here and refer to it as the 'Devil's Kitchen'.


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