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Scarlet pimpernel or Burnet saxifrage

(Pimpinella saxifraga)

Photo of scarlet pimpernel
Photo credit: Steve Garske

Herbaceous perennial resembling Queen Anne's lace.

Overview

Other names for this plant 
  • Common names: solid-stem burnet-saxifrage, burnet saxifrage, lesser saxifrage
  • Scientific names: Pimpinella saxifraga ssp. saxifraga, P. saxifraga ssp. nigra
Ecological threat
  • Invades grasslands and woodlands; prefers dry, well-drained, calcareous soils (particularly chalk and limestone downs). It also grows well in rich soils and occasionally acidic sands.
  • Rapidly spreads by human activity and vehicles, especially along roadsides.
  • Plants have very high seed production.
  • This species is sold as an ornamental.
Overview map of scarlet pimpernel classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for burnet-saxifrage was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves & stems: Bipinnate leaves with numerous, oppositely arranged leaflets.

Flowers: White umbel flowers resemble Queen Anne's lace. Flowers are perfect (containing both male and female reproductive parts) and self-fertile.

Roots: Dark taproot, semi-woody.

Control

Mechanical
  • Hand-pull plants, being sure to remove the taproot.
  • Mow plants before or during flower to prevent seed-set. Monitor for re-sprouts.
Chemical
  • Apply glyphosate according to label rates.

Photos

View burnet-saxifrage pictures in our photo gallery.

Resources

Sources for content
  • Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium. 2010. Plants of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, WI 54481 USA.
  • Huja, A., et al. 2009. “Tolerance of a perennial herb, Pimpinella saxifraga, to simulated flower herbivory and grazing: immediate repair of injury or postponed reproduction?” Plant Ecology 201(2): 599-609.
  • Lukes, Roy. Retired director of the Ridges Sanctuary. Personal communications.
Links for more information