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Accepted Scientific Name: Graptopetalum rusbyi (Greene) Rose
Addisonia 9: 31 1924.
Origin and Habitat: Graptopetalum rusbyi occurs in Arizona (Greenlee, Graham, Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties), and south into northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Sonora). Type locality San Francisco River region, Greenlee County.
Altitude range: Lower and Upper Sonoran Zones (150-)600-1700 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: Graptopetalum rusbyi grows in scattered populations in open places among rocks and steep canyon slopes especially on north slopes and on shaded cliffs with ferns and mosses (at least at lower elevations). They are usually found growing within 1500- 3000 mm of seasonal waterflows in canyons. Accompanying plants may include Echinocereus ledingii, Mammillaria viridiflora, Neolloydia erectocentra var. acunonsis, Peniocureus greggii, Stenocereus thurbori and Plummera ambigens. Leatherpetals are the exclusive larval host for the Xami hairstreak butterfly (Callophrys xami).
- Graptopetalum rusbyi (Greene) Rose
Graptopetalum rusbyi (Greene) Rose
Addisonia 9: 31 1924.
- Graptopetalum rusbyi (Greene) Rose
- Cotyledon rusbyi Greene
- Dudleya rusbyi (Greene) Britton & Rose
- Echeveria rusbyi (Greene) A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr.
- Graptopetalum orpetii E.Walther
ENGLISH: Leatherpetals, Leather petals, San Francisco River leatherpetal
Description: Graptopetalum rusbyi is a perennial, densely cespitose succulent plant in the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae) with several stemless or short-stemmed rosettes normally mat-forming. The leaves with minute papillae. In the springtime, plants develop flower spikes about 15 cm tall with clusters of pale flowers cross-banded with dark red and yellow dots towards the center of the petals. The flowers have a distinctive evil smell.
Rosettes: 10-50-leaved, flattened, typically 2-6 cm wide in habitat, but to about 10 cm in cultivation.
Root: Main root thickened to 8 mm in diameter.
Stem: Stems of rosettes erect, short, to 1.5 cm tall, branched from below the rosette.
Leaves: Leaves of the stem alternate, bractlike 2-18 mm long. The basal ones (in the rosette) much larger, blade pale green or reddish to violet, not glaucous, oblong-oblanceolate, rhombic or ovate, (3-)8-18(-50) mm wide, (5-)15-35(-50) mm long, 1-5 mm thick, acute and with a slender pointed apex (mocro) 1-3 mm long, hairless but minutely and closely papillate at least upper half of the leaf, especially on margins and keel.
Inflorescences:* The inflorescence is a broad, very open cyme (almost flat). Flowering stem (scape) shell-pink or violet, erect, (4-)10-18(-20) cm tall, 3-10 mm thick, 5-3-branched into ascending, slender 1-12-flowered secund racemes, that are spreading, 2-branched or mostly zigzag scorpioid 1 - 9 cm long.. Pedicels slender, (1-)3-8(-13) mm long.
Flowers: Calyx lobes and petals (5-)6-7(-8), the petals erect, narrowly ovate, turgid united below into a yellow, cylindric or funnelform tube slightly shorter than sepals to about equaling them (1-3.5 mm long). Cal cup-shaped, 2.5-4(-6) mm long 3-6(-8) mm in diameter. Sepals oblong, spatulate, or obovate, very obtuse appressed or upcurved, almost free, 2.5 -6 mm long, 0.7- 1.8 mm wide. Corolla 8-50 mm long, 14-21 mm in diameter strongly angled when in bud. Lobes 7-10.5 long, 1.2-2.5 mm wide narrowly lanceolate keeled without and rotately spreading in flower, yellowish-white (white or greenish), yellow at base, spotted or with crossbars of red about middle, solid red at apex. Carpels (pistils) slenderly subulate, 6-7 mm long, not hollowed near base, erect, tinged with red or brownish, valves of the carpels gradually attenuate into the styles 1-1.5 mm long. Stamens 5-7 mm long, yellowish-white below, red-patterned above in age strongly recurved outside the corolla. Nectar sqamae square, 0.3 - 0.6 x 0.5 - 0.9 mm, white or yellowish.
Blooming season: Flowering late spring (in habitat April to June).
Chromosome number: 2n = 62, 63, 64, 66, ca. 93, 124.
Note: In Mexico G. rusby has been misidentified as Graptopetalum occidentale.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Thomas Henry Kearney, Robert Hibbs Peebles “Flowering plants and ferns of Arizona” U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1942
2) Forrest Shreve, Ira Loren Wiggins “Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert”, Volume 1
Stanford University Press, 1964
3) Moran, R. V. “Graptopetalum rusbyi (Greene) Rose and G. occidentale Rose.” Cact. Succ. J. (Los Angeles) 56: 169-176.1984.
4) Graptopetalum rusbyi in: “Flora or North America” FNA Vol. 8 Page 227, 228 web: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=250092160
5) Paul Schultz Martin “Gentry's R’o Mayo Plants: The Tropical Deciduous Forest & Environs of Northwest Mexico” University of Arizona Press, 1998
6) “Las Cruces/Lordsburg Resource Area, MFP Amendments: Environmental Impact Statement” 1983
7) “Safford District Wilderness Study Areas, Designation (AZ,NM): Environmental Impact Statement” 1987
8) “Coronado National Forest (N.F.), Pinaleno Mountains, Proposed Mt.Graham Astrophysical Area: Environmental Impact Statement” 1989
9) “Resource Management Plan/environmental Impact Statement for the Lower Gila South RMP/EIS Area: La Paz, Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, and Yuma Counties, Arizona : Final”
The District, 1985
10) Jim Verrier “Featured Plants Spring 2012” Desert Survivors SPRING 2012 web: http://www.desertsurvivors.org/springnewsletter2012.pdf
11) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Crassulaceae: Crassulaceae” Springer Science & Business Media, 2003
Cultivation and Propagation: Culture of Graptopetalum rusbyi is fairly easy to grow in light shade. It is always a favorite carefree windowsill citizen, an excellent addition to any garden. The plant's origin will make its rosettes tolerate heat and drought. They are true survivors.
Exposition: Likes light shade to part sun (it will take a few hours of sun without a problem), but adapts very well to sun and shade too. It can overwinters well also under grow lights in a cool room of the house. Graptopetalums are chameleons. Those grown in partial shade tend to be blue-gray; in full, hot sun, gray-pink; in full sun, pinkish gray to yellow.
Soil: In cultivation, these plants are best grown in containers with well-drained soils. Good drainage is essential.
Watering: During the summer and winter, they like to dry out in between waterings, so watering every seven to ten days might be a reasonable schedule. During spring and fall, when they are more active, they appears to need much more water than the average succulent and can be watered as soon as the soil dries out. Pay particular attention to make sure that they do not rot at the root from soggy soil. In a very humid situation in winter, it can rot even if totally dry. It likes dry air as much as dry soil.
Fertilization: Fertilizer should be applied only once in early spring , diluted to ¼ the recommended rate on the label.
Hardiness: It is usually recommended to avoid freezing temperatures, but it is a very hardy succulent and can rebound from being frozen and is useful in areas that drop below 7° C. It requires low temperature for flower formation and it will not flower unless it is overwintered for at least a month at 15° C or less.
Pests and diseases: The tightly-packed rosettes are attractive to mealy bugs.
Uses: A great plant for use as a groundcover, in gravel gardens, paved areas, rockeries, in hanging baskets or pots, or for spilling over walls. It is a bit brittle so avoid handling when possible and not for planting in areas with much traffic. Because the stems are so fragile, it is best to pick the best location for ghost plant and then don’t move it. Try mixing with other succulents and alpines.
Propagation: It is is propagated by the division of offshoots or by individual leaves, rooted in sand or in dry vermiculite. Any rosette that breaks off has the potential to root and start a new plant. Even a leaf that drops off will root below the parent plant and produce a new rosette quickly. Because leaves and cuttings root effortlessly, graptopetalums are among the easiest succulents to propagate.
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