Succulents

Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage Mossy Stonecrop New Zealand Pigmyweed Cobweb Houseleek

What are they?

This page covers a variety of fleshy-leaved or succulent species that are mostly members of the family Crassulaceae. These plants have thickened, fleshy leaves designed to store quantities of water to see the plant through drought periods. With this water-storing ability, they can survive in some of the driest of habitats and often look healthy when other plants around them are showing signs of water stress in late summer. When growing in particularly sunny locations, plants often acquire a red coloration to them, caused by an increase in red colour pigments (anthocyanins) which help to protect the plants from sun scorch. Also included here are the golden-saxifrages, which are not related to the crassulas but somewhat resemble them in their succulent leaves. Other closely-related and similarly succulent plants can be found by clicking here.

Where are they found?

Most species are plants of open, bare ground or seasonally very dry habitats such as walls and gravelled or paved pathways. Perhaps surprisingly for succulent plants, some are wetland plant species, so habitat can be useful in narrowing your search for an identification.

Identification

Most are easy to identify by a combination of leaf detail and flower detail, including petal colour and number.



Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage      Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Native. Strangely local in East Anglia but can be common where it occurs on wet banks, seepages and streamsides in shady places in the upper reaches of Norfolk's main rivers and in southeast Suffolk, southward into Essex. Flowers April to July. Forms creeping mats of low vegetation with the tiny yellow flowers appearing amongst yellow, leaf-like bracts. Leaves slightly succulent, arranged in opposite pairs on the stems and with finely tipped teeth along their edges.

Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaves opposite


Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage      Chrysosplenium alternifolium

Native. Local and very uncommon on wet banks, seepages and streamsides in shady places in the upper reaches of Norfolk's main rivers and in southeast Suffolk, southward into Essex. Flowers April to July. Forms creeping mats of low vegetation with the tiny yellow flowers appearing amongst yellow, leaf-like bracts. Leaves slightly succulent, arranged alternately on the stems and with broadly squared lobes that resemble a pie crust.

Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaves alternate


Mossy Stonecrop      Crassula tillaea

Native. Rare in The UK as a whole, but quite frequent on the drier, sandy soils of East Anglia and on dirt tracks and parking areas, where its seeds may get distributed via shoes and car tyres. Flowers June to July, but these are minuscule and easily missed. A tiny annual plant, growing to around 3cm in height that would go completely unnoticed or passed off as a moss but for the bright red coloration that it turns in open, sunny places. Leaves fleshy like a tiny stonecrop but you'll need a hand lens and a lie down to get a look at it!

Mossy Stonecrop Mossy Stonecrop Mossy Stonecrop Mossy Stonecrop
Habit
Habit
Flowers and fruits
Seedling leaves


New Zealand Pigmyweed      Crassula helmsii

Introduced from Australia and New Zealand as a garden aquatic plant and now one of the most invasive and problematic of aline plants in the UK, smothering vast areas of wetlands to the detriment of native plant communities. Throughout the region on the margins of ponds, lakes and gravel pits. Flowers June to September. Flowers small, 2-3mm across. A perennial, rooting easily from the leaf nodes and rapidly spreading to form a thick carpet on wet sand or mud and capable of withstanding prolonged periods submerged.

New Zealand Pigmyweed New Zealand Pigmyweed New Zealand Pigmyweed New Zealand Pigmyweed
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Leaves


Common Houseleek      Sempervivum tectorum

Introduced as a garden ornamental from the mountains of Europe. Occasionally found on walls, roofs and dry banks where perhaps often originally planted, but offsets of leaf rosettes easily come away and root in to form new plants by themselves. Flowers June to July, in a cluster at the top of a leafy shoot that arises from the leaf rosettes. Leaves glandular hairy but appearing hairless except close to.

Common Houseleek Common Houseleek Common Houseleek
Habit
Habit
Habit


Cobweb Houseleek      Sempervivum arachnoideum

Introduced as a garden ornamental from the mountains of Europe. Occasionally found on walls, roofs and dry banks where perhaps often originally planted, but offsets of leaf rosettes easily come away and root in to form new plants by themselves. Flowers June to July, in a cluster at the top of a leafy shoot that arises from the leaf rosettes. Leaves covered in white, cobweb-like hairs, forming smaller and more compact rosettes than those of Common Houseleek.

Cobweb Houseleek Cobweb Houseleek Cobweb Houseleek Cobweb Houseleek
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaves


Common Navelwort      Umbilicus rupestris

A native of the west and southwest of the UK on wetter, acid rocks. In East Anglia, a rare garden escape and known for some time from a small handful of places where it persists on shady old walls and banks. Flowers June to August, in upright spikes. Leaves rounded, attached to their stalks at the centre of the leaf.

Common Navelwort Common Navelwort Common Navelwort Common Navelwort
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaf