Pimpinella saxifraga

Common name: Burnet Saxifrage Family: Umbelliferae
Author: L. Botanical references: 17, 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: Europe, including Britain, but absent from much of the south and the Arctic, to W. Asia, W. Siberia.
Habitat: Fields and hedgerows in dry ground, especially on calcareous soils7, 17.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 2 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 2
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Black Caraway E, Burnet Saxifrage H,E, Burnet-saxifrage L, Kleine Bevernel D, Kucuk Pimpinella E, Lesser Burnet H, Pate Di Gate E, Pimpinela Blanca E, Pinpinera E, Solid-stem Burnet-saxifrage B, Solidstem Burnet Saxifrage P,
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Apiales. Renamed to Apiaceae — Carrot family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database
Belgium; Germany; Mediterranean; Spain; Turkey

Physical Characteristics

Perennial growing to 1m by 0.6m . It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile. We rate it 2/5 for edibility and 2/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Meadow, Hedgerow, Woodland, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade, Shady Edge.

Edible Uses

Condiment; Leaves; Seed.

Young leaves and shoots – raw. They can be added in small quantities to mixed salads or used to impart a cool aromatic flavour to cooling drinks

7, 183, 244. The leaves are said to have a parsley-like tang7, whilst another report says that the flavour is like cucumber183. Seeds – used as a condiment46, 61, 105. They are coated with sugar and eaten as a confection183. An essential oil from the root is used as a flavouring in sweets etc183. It gives a bitter flavour to liqueurs238.

Medicinal Uses

Antispasmodic; Astringent; Carminative; Cholagogue; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Ophthalmic; Resolvent; Skin; Stomachic.

Burnet saxifrage has long been held in high regard as a medicinal herb, being used especially in the treatment of wounds and internally to ease digestion, soothe respiratory complaints and treat kidney and urinary diseases

244. The leaves and the root are antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, resolvent and stomachic4, 7, 13, 21. The plant is harvested as it comes into flower and dried for later use4. The root is harvested in the autumn and can also be dried for later use7. The root is anti-inflammatory, mildly astringent and expectorant9. The fresh root is very hot and acrid, but this pungency is greatly reduced when the root is dried4. When chewed, the fresh root is effective in treating toothaches and paralysis of the tongue4. The root is also used for soothing coughs or the effects of laryngitis and bronchitis9. The roots can be harvested in the spring or autumn and are dried for later use9. A lotion made from the root is used externally to help regenerate the skin of older people7. A distilled water made from the plant is used as an eye lotion7.

Other Uses

None known

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most soils200. Prefers a dry alkaline soil in full sun or light shade238.


The seed requires a period of cold stratification. If you can obtain fresh seed then it is best sown immediately. Germination rates are usually very good so it is probably best done in situ if you have sufficient seed, but if you only have a small quantity then it is safer to sow it in pots in a cold frame. Sow stored seed as soon as you can obtain it, this is probably best done in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the pot-grown seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.