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Accepted Scientific Name: Crassula nudicaulis L.
Sp. Pl. 283 1753 L.
Origin and Habitat: Cape of Good Hope
Habitat: It grows in dry stony slopes.
Crassula nudicaulis L.
Sp. Pl. 283 1753
- Crassula nudicaulis L.
- Globulea nudicaulis (L.) Haw.
- Crassula canescens (Haw.) Sweet
- Crassula cephalophora Thunb.
- Purgosea cephalophora (Thunb.) Don
- Crassula cephalophora var. basutica Schönland
- Crassula hirta Thunb.
- Purgosea hirta (Thunb.) Don
- Crassula hirta var. dyeri Schönland
- Crassula obfalcata Willd.
- Crassula obvallaris DC.
- Crassula obvallata L.
- Globulea obvallata (L.) Haw.
- Crassula platyphylla Schönland non Harv.
- Crassula sulcata (Haw.) D.Dietr.
- Globulea sulcata Haw.
Crassula nudicaulis var. herrei (Friedrich) Toelken
J. S. African Bot. 41: 113 1975
- Crassula nudicaulis var. herrei (Friedrich) Toelken
Crassula nudicaulis var. platyphylla (Harv.) Toelken
J. S. African Bot. 41: 113 1975
- Crassula nudicaulis var. platyphylla (Harv.) Toelken
Description: Crassula hirta is a tufted succulent plant usually included as synonym with Crassula nudicaulis. It has distinctive very long, fleshy leaves, glabrous or covered by white hairs, but variability among individuals is evident and no two plants look exactly the same. In cultivation it often keeps the original name to avoid confusion with short-leafed forms of C. nudicaulis which itself is a very variable plant. Usually Crassula hirta has almost white leaves which are longer and more angular, while C. nudicaulis usually has oblong-elliptic, to orbicular leaves, however there is a gradual series of transitional forms intergrading one into another, and it is almost impossible to tell them apart, if not for the geographical provenance, so now they are all synonymized with C. nudicaulis. Moreover the Latin name Crassula hirta (instead C. nudicaulis) is the most used among growers and is also frequently featured in various botany and systematics contexts dealing with succulents, creating a taxonomig nightmare.
Habit: It is a perennial succulent plant forming several basal rosettes with glabrous to pubescent leaves collected into a head at the crown of the root and amidst them an annual flower stalk surmounted by clusters of small white or cream flowers.
Root: Thickened taproot.
Stem: Short or none, more or less branched, carnose to slightly woody, hairy or hairless, with old leaves remaining attached at the base.
Rosette: Low growing, not forming a regular rose but a sort of head with leaves that when reach a certain length, bend to the ground, forming a bromelia-like tuft.
Leaves: Succulent, soft, oblong-elliptic, semiterete, linear-lanceolate or obovate, acute, almost smooth to densely pubescent, (20-)50-80(-150) mm long, (4-)6-12(-25) mm wide tapering upwards, acute to rounded, flat or slightly convex above, more or less convex below, spreading, rarely somewhat recurved in the north-east, glabrous to pubescent, with or without marginal cilia, green to yellowish green. Readily takes on red-brown accents from direct sunlight. Plants whose soft leaves are densely covered with fine hairs and almost white fulfils an important function in nature: they are able to absorb whatever moisture reaches them in the form of dew or mist and a leaf may absorb in a single night more water in this way than it loses by transpiration in a week.
Inflorescence: Loose cyme-like, 15-30 (or more) cm tall, naked, with 1-3 pairs of bracts at the top without axillary flowers. Peduncle 0,l-0,2(-0,4) m long, glabrous to pubescent.
Flowers: Small, cream-coloured or greenish, which often fail to open as broadly as other species do. Calyx lobes oblong-triangular, l,5-2(-3) mm long, obtuse, rarely acute, glabrous or with recurved hairs or papillae and marginal cilia, fleshy, green to brown. Corolla tubular to almost cylindrical, fused basally for 0,5-0,8 mm, cream, rarely white. Corolla lobes (petals), panduriform, 3-3,5(-4,5) mm long, each with prominent terminal dorsal appendages and with membranous petal apex on inside. Style sharp, stigmas lateral. Stamens 2.5-3.5 mm long, anthers yellow.
Blooming season: It flowers in spring and sometimes again in the latter part of summer.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Crassula nudicaulis group
- Crassula hirta Thunb.: (var. nudicaulis) has long, fleshy, leaves more or less covered by white hairs, but variability among individuals is evident and no two plants look the same. Distribution: Cape of Good Hope.
- Crassula nudicaulis L.: (var. nudicaulis) leaves are oblong-elliptic and 50-80 mm long. The typical variety represents a variable complex. Distribution: S-W Cape to the E Cape, Free State, Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal.
- Crassula nudicaulis var. herrei (Friedrich) Toelken: has a shrubby habit up to 100-250 mm tall wit very thick glabrous leaves 30-40 mm long and semi-circular in section. The flowers are directed upwards. Distribution: Western Cape to the Orange River.
- Crassula nudicaulis var. platyphylla (Harv.) Toelken: has bluish-grey, broadly oblong to orbicular leaves with marginal cilia. Distribution: mountains bordering the southern Great Karoo.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) W. H. Harvey “Flora Capensis” Vol 2, 1894
2) Edgar Lamb, Brian Lamb “The Illustrated Reference on Cacti & Other Succulents” Volume 5 Blandford Press, 1978
3) Werner Rauh “The Wonderful World of Succulents: Cultivation and Description of Selected Succulent Plants Other Than Cacti” Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
4) Doreen Court “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” CRC Press, 01/Jun/2000
5) Stuart Max Walters “The European Garden Flora: Dicotyledons” (Part I) Cambridge University Press, 1989
6) Gordon D. Rowley “The illustrated encyclopedia of succulents” Crown Publishers, 01/Aug/1978
7) Gordon Rowley “Crassula: A Grower's Guide” Cactus & Company, 2003
8) Eggli, Urs “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants, Crassulaceae Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants.” Springer, Berlin 2002
9) Hermann Jacobsen “Abromeitiella to Euphorbia” Blandford Press, 1960
10) Hermann Jacobsen “A handbook of succulent plants: descriptions, synonyms, and cultural details for succulents other than Cactaceae” Volume 1 Blandford Press, 1960
11) Toelken, H.R. 1997. “A revision of the genus Crassula” in southern Africa. Annals of the Bolus Herbarium 8,1-595.
12) Van Jaarsveld, E., Van Wyk, B-E. & Smith, G. “Succulents of South Africa.” Tafelberg, Cape Town. 2000
13) John Wilkes “Encyclopaedia Londinensis” Volume 5 1810
14) John Manning “Field Guide to Fynbos” Struik, 2007
15) Christopher Brickell “RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers” Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 01/set/2010
16) Otto A. Leistner “Flora of southern Africa” 1985
17) George Don “A General History of the Dichleamydeous Plants ... Arranged According to the Natural System”, Volume 3 J. G. and F. Rivington, 1834
18) Alfred Byrd Graf “Exotica, series 4 international: pictorial cyclopedia of exotic plants from tropical and near-tropic regions” Roehrs Co. Publishers, 1985
19) The National Cactus and Succulent Journal: The Official Journal of the National Cactus & Succulent Society, Volumes 31-34 National Cactus and Succulent Society, 1976
20) Dr J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa” 2003
Cultivation and Propagation: Crassula nudicaulis are of easy cultivation and relatively low maintenance, which makes them a good houseplant, and can be an excellent subject for the beginning succulentophile (they can grow easily on window sills, verandas and in miniature succulent gardens where they are happy to share their habitat with other smaller succulent plants, or in outdoor rockeries). They are spring and autumn grower (summer dormant).
Soil: They prefer a very porous potting mix to increase drainage. A acid soil is ideal. You can grow a plant in a 6-10 cm pot for years and have perfectly happy plants. For best results, use a shallow pot.
Watering: Provide some water all year around, in the wild most of the growth occurs during spring and autumn. During the hot summer months, the soil should be kept moist but not overly wet. During the winter months, water only when the soil becomes completely dry. Wet soil quickly causes root and stem rot, especially during chilly winter months, but can re-root if taken care of. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots. Low ambient humidity is always needed.
Fertilization: The plants are fertilized only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the recommended strength.
Sun Exposure: They need full sun or bright, filtered light with ample airflow to stay compact, but avoid direct blasting sun in mid summer (with sun exposure the leaf develops a nice brownish tint), they do not do well in full shade as they tend to etiolate, fall over and rot easily.
Pest & diseases: Crassulas are sensitive to mealybugs.
Rot: Rot is only a minor problem with Crassula if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much. Care must be given in watering, keeping them warm and wet while growing, and cooler and dry when dormant.
Hardiness: Although the plants will survive mild frost if kept dry (hardy as low as -5° C) they should be protected from frost to prevent scarring. USDA 9b-12
Use: It is an excellent potted plant great for windowsill culture as well as in rock gardens. Indoors only in brightest position.
Pruning: The small white flowers of these plants are not particularly striking and beautiful, and so it may be appropriate to remove the flower stalks at an early stage. Plants saves a lot of forces that can then be invest to increase the production of new and stronger side shoots.
Propagation: They are easily propagated by the removal of offshoots, remove a lateral shoot and insert the basal part buried in the soil. This shoot should root within a month, and small offshoot will form at the base. They can also be grown from seed.
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