Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The teapot plant, Crassula brevifolia, has leaves short and stout


A short and pretty posting for New Year's Day. OK, so I made up the common name. But it's hard describe something as 'short and stout' without bringing to mind teapots and "I'm a little...".

Crassula brevifolia subspecies brevifolia does indeed have short, stumpy leaves. According to South Africa's The Succulent Plant Site, this subspecies is quite variable across its range from South Namibia to northern Cedarberg but always with juicy, stout leaves.

There is a little more on this variation provided by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, at the JSTOR site.  The more common forms have yellow flowers, and either yellow or purplish/red leaves. At Kew we are growing the rarer white-flowered form with red-tinged leaves, only found naturally on a rock outcrop near Strandfotein and 'upper slopes of the Gifberg'. As you see, though, the pink ovaries in the flower compete strongly with the crystal white petals.


In southern Africa Teapot Plant flowers from autumn to mid winter, the equivalent of September to January here at Kew Gardens. It's in full bloom at the moment in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

More commonly than Teapot Plant, this subspecies is known as Fiery Stonecrop, a reference to the raging red leaves of most its most well-known form when water is limiting*, and its favoured rocky habitat. I expect all forms become redder under stress.

Kew's plants, as you'd expect, are not wanting for water and the leaves have a fresh green hue. I do wonder though if we might be better pulling back the water a little to bring out a little more festive red colour.


*Note: Jim Croft (Australian National Botanic Gardens and succulent grower in Canberra) said after reading this comment that he doesn't think the redness of the leaves is due to water stress but more likely a response to high light. He grows a few Sedum and this is what they do. As do mosses, he adds. 

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