Two more plant families

Crassulaceae and Plumbaginaceae. Stonecrop and leadwort. Two families embracing plants I grew in my Columbus OH garden. And plants that were relevant to me yesterday, when I was given a kalanchoe (in the first family) as a present and came across some plumbago (in the second) in Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden — some plumbago not in the genus Plumbago, but nevertheless in the family.

Kalanchoe (and jade plant and stonecrops and houseleeks). The gift plant, an orange-flowered Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, much like the one in this photo:


From Wikipedia, on the genus:

Kalanchoe … is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae, mainly native to the Old World. Only one species of this genus originates from the Americas, 56 from southern & eastern Africa and 60 species in Madagascar.

… Kalanchoes are characterized by opening their flowers by growing new cells on the inner surface of the petals to force them outwards, and on the outside of the petals to close them.

The genus was first described by the botanist Michel Adanson in 1763 … the name came from the Chinese name “Kalanchauhuy” [AZ: or something like that].

On the family, from Wikipedia:

The Crassulaceae, also known as the stonecrop family or the orpine family, are a family of dicotyledons with succulent leaves. They are generally herbaceous but there are some subshrubs, and relatively few treelike or aquatic plants. They are found worldwide, but mostly occur in the Northern Hemisphere and southern Africa, typically in dry and/or cold areas where water may be scarce. The family includes approximately 1,200-1,500 species and 34 genera.

In the family, in the type genus: jade plant. From Wikipedia:

Crassula ovata, commonly known as jade plant, friendship tree, lucky plant, or money tree, is a succulent plant with small pink or white flowers. It is native to South Africa and Mozambique, and is common as a houseplant worldwide.


Also in the family: stonecrops. On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Sedum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae, members of which are commonly known as stonecrops. The genus has been described as containing up to 600 species of leaf succulents that are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, varying from annual and creeping herbs to shrubs. The plants have water-storing leaves. The flowers usually have five petals, seldom four or six.

On the familiar groundcover Sedum acre:

Sedum acre, commonly known as the goldmoss stonecrop, mossy stonecrop, goldmoss sedum, biting stonecrop, and wallpepper, is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae. It is native to Europe, but also naturalised in North America, Japan and New Zealand. … Biting stonecrop is a tufted perennial herb that forms mat-like stands some 5 to 12 cm (2 to 5 in) tall. (Wikipedia link)


We grew S. acre in Ohio. It spread rapidly, but was easy to pull out from places where it wasn’t wanted.

When you think of sedums, you also think of sempervivums. Stonecrops and houseleeks. Some Sempervivum tectorum in a container in Columbus (1998 photo by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky):


At least one person unfamiliar with the plants thought they looked (in photos) like artichokes.

On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Sempervivum … is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plants in the Crassulaceae family, known as houseleeks. Other common names include liveforever and hen and chicks. They are succulent perennials forming mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. In favourable conditions they spread rapidly via offsets, and several species are valued in cultivation as groundcover for dry, sunny spots.

… The name Sempervivum has its origin in the Latin semper (“always”) and vivus (“living”), because this perennial plant keeps its leaves in winter and is very resistant to difficult conditions of growth. The common name houseleek is believed to stem from the traditional practice of growing plants on the roofs of houses to ward off fire and lightning strikes. The Welsh often hold the superstitious belief that having it grow on the roof of the house ensures the health and prosperity of those who live there. The plant is not closely related to the true leek, which belongs to the onion family.

And on the species in #4 (Latin tectōrum ‘of roofs’):

Sempervivum tectorum (common houseleek) is a species of flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae, native to the mountains of southern Europe.

Growing to 15 cm (6 in) tall by 50 cm (20 in) broad, it is a rosette-forming succulent evergreen perennial, spreading by offsets. It has grey-green, tufted, sessile leaves, 4–10 cm (2–4 in) in diameter, which are often suffused with rose-red. In summer it bears clusters of reddish-purple flowers, in multiples of 8-16, on hairy erect flat-topped stems. The species is highly variable, in part because hundreds of cultivars have been propagated, sold, and traded for nearly 200 years. … This plant has been known to humans for thousands of years

Plumbago, of two genera (and thrift and statice). Now to the Gamble Garden, where I came across this old friend, which I gew as a groundcover in Columbus:


I knew it just as plumbago, but it turns out to be Ceratostigma plumbaginoidesPlumbago-like Ceratostigma‘ rather than actual Plumbago. On this plant, from the Missouri Botanical Garden site:

Plumbago (also commonly called leadwort) is a wiry, mat-forming perennial which spreads by rhizomes to form an attractive ground cover. Typically grows 6-10″ tall on generally erect stems rising from the rhizomes. Oval to obovate, shiny, medium green leaves (to 2″ long) turn bronze-red in autumn. Terminal clusters of 5-petaled, gentian blue flowers (1/2 to 3/4″ diameter) appear above the foliage over a long summer to frost bloom period.

Very satisfying plant.

On this genus, from Wikipedia:

Ceratostigma (… from the Greek Κερατόστιγμα [Greek stem kera- ‘horn’ plus the name of the flower part]), or leadwort, plumbago, is a genus of eight species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Common names are shared with the genus Plumbago.

And then on the genus Plumbago:

Plumbago is a genus of 10-20 species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Common names include plumbago and leadwort (names which are also shared by the genus Ceratostigma). The generic name, derived from the Latin words plumbum (“lead”) and agere (“to resemble”), was first used by Pliny the Elder (23-79) for a plant known as μολυβδαινα (molybdaina) to Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90). This may have referred to its lead-blue flower colour, the ability of the sap to create lead-colored stains on skin, or Pliny’s belief that the plant was a cure for lead poisoning. (Wikipedia link)

And on a prominent species:

Plumbago auriculata (common names blue plumbago, Cape plumbago or Cape leadwort), syn. P. capensis, is a species of flowering plant in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to South Africa. It is an evergreen shrub, often grown as a climber, ascending rapidly to 6 m (20 ft) tall by 3 m (10 ft) wide in nature, though much smaller when cultivated as a houseplant. It has light blue to blue flowers and also variations with white (P. auriculata var. alba) or deep blue (P. auriculata ‘Royal cape’) flowers. The leaves are a glossy green (Wikipedia link)


Now, up to the family. From Wikipedia:

Plumbaginaceae is a family of flowering plants, with a cosmopolitan distribution. The family is sometimes referred to as the leadwort family or the plumbago family.

Most species in this family are perennial herbaceous plants, but a few grow as lianas or shrubs. The plants have perfect flowers and are pollinated by insects. They are found in many different climatic regions, from arctic to tropical conditions, but are particularly associated with salt-rich steppes, marshes, and sea coasts.

[From Wikipedia:

A “perfect” flower has both stamens and carpels, and may be described as “bisexual” or “hermaphroditic”. A “unisexual” flower is one in which either the stamens or the carpels are missing, vestigial or otherwise non-functional.

Note that this sense of perfect is a specialization of the general sense ‘having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics’]

Two more plants (both grown as familiar ornamentals, and both plants of the seacoast) in the plumbago family: thrift and statice. Armeria and Limonium.


Armeria is a genus of flowering plants. These plants are sometimes known as “Lady’s Cushion”, “thrift”, or “sea pink” (the latter because as they are often found on coastlines). The genus counts over a hundred species, mostly native to the Mediterranean, although Armeria maritima [shown in #7 above] is an exception, being distributed along the coasts of the Northern Hemisphere, including Ireland, parts of the United Kingdom such as Cornwall, and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales. Some are popular with gardeners as rockery plants. (Wikipedia link)

Thrift or sea pink is a compact, low-growing plant which forms a dense, mounded tuft of stiff, linear, grass-like, dark green leaves (to 4″ tall). Tufts will spread slowly to 8-12″ wide. Tiny, pink to white flowers bloom in mid spring in globular clusters (3/4-1″ wide) atop slender, naked stalks rising well above the foliage to 6-10″ tall. Sporadic additional flowering may occur throughout the summer. Flower clusters are subtended by purplish, papery bracts. In the wild, thrift or sea pink commonly grows in saline environments along coastal areas where few other plants can grow well, hence the common name. (Missouri Botanical Garden)


Limonium is a genus of 120 flower species. Members are also known as sea-lavender, statice, or marsh-rosemary. Despite their common names, species are not related to the lavenders or to rosemary. They are instead in Plumbaginaceae, the plumbago or leadwort family. The generic name is from the Latin līmōnion, used by Pliny for a wild plant and is ultimately derived from the Ancient Greek leimon (λειμών, ‘meadow’).

… Sea-lavenders normally grow as herbaceous perennial plants, growing 10–70 cm tall from a rhizome; a few (mainly from the Canary Islands) are woody shrubs up to 2 metres tall. Many species flourish in saline soils, and are therefore common near coasts and in salt marshes, and also on saline, gypsum and alkaline soils in continental interiors. (Wikipedia link)

Statice is frequently used in flower arrangements, often as dried flowers.

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