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(Saxifrage family)


580 species in 30 genera are found chiefly in north temperate regions, a few in south temperate regions and on tropical mountains. The family is botanically related to Ranunculaceae.

[Summary yet to be added]

Astilbe japonica A.Gray
[syn. Hoteia japonica C.Morren & Decne.]
Florist's Spiraea, Japanese Astilbe

McCord (1962) noted that a commercial extract was available for patch testing. No reports of dermatitis from the plant have been found.

Heuchera americana

Preparations of the plant have "proved very beneficial in obstinate ulcers" (Piffard 1881).

Saxifraga stolonifera Curtis
[syns Ligularia sarmentosa Haw., Saxifraga chinensis Lour., Saxifraga sarmentosa L.f.]
Creeping Saxifrage, Strawberry Begonia

Referring to Saxifraga sarmentosa, Stuart (1911) noted that in Chinese traditional medicine the plant is known as hu erh tsao or shih ho veh. It is dried in the shade and then set fire to in a bucket, and used to steam or smoke swollen, painful haemorrhoids.


One species, native to Pacific North America, is a popular rock-garden and house plant. The botanical name represents Dr Tolmie, surgeon of the Hudson's Bay Company and Dr Menzies, ship's surgeon to Captain Vancouver.

Tolmiea menziesii (Pursh) Torr. & A.Gray
[syns Heuchera menziesii (Pursh) Hook., Tiarella mensiesii Pursh]
Pickaback Plant, Piggyback Plant, Thousand Mothers, Youth-On-Age

The plant is a glandular hairy perennial. Hjorth (1966a, 1969), from consideration of 28 positive patch test reactions to the plant at the Finsen Institute from 1935-1962 and from four positive patch test reactions in 93 consecutive cases, concluded that the plant is a sensitiser. A woman presented pruritic vesicles on the palms and fingers with erythema and pruritus of the eyelids and neck. A patch test to the plant was positive, negative in controls (Calnan 1969).


  • Calnan, C.D. (1969) Tolmiea menziesii. Contact Dermatitis Newsletter (5): 98.
  • Hjorth N (1966a) Contact sensitivity to plants and balsams. In: Skog E (Ed.) The Sixth European Congress of Allergology. Symposium on Allergic Contact Eczema in Theory and Practice, September 1965, pp. 65-79. Stockholm, Sweden: Acta Dermato-Venereologica [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Hjorth N (1969) Plant dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis Newsletter (6): 126-127 [url]
  • McCord CP (1962) The occupational toxicity of cultivated flowers. Industrial Medicine and Surgery 31(8): 365-368
  • Piffard HG (1881) A Treatise on the Materia Medica and Therapeutics of the Skin. New York: William Wood & Company [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Stuart GA (1911) Chinese Materia Medica. Vegetable Kingdom. Extensively revised from Dr. F. Porter Smith's work. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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