New on the patio

A new little succulent garden, some of whose plants I have approximately identified; and four pots of new coleus plants, to replace the ones that were frosted to death one bitter winter night a while ago (coleus plants are really frost-tender; otherwise, they’re bright and colorful and easy to grow).

The succulent garden. This came about from a search for coleus plants after the previous ones got frozen to death; eventually we leared that coleus plants aren’t available during the winter; locally, they’re shipped in from nurseries in the East in the spring (like, now).

During this fruitless search, we came across lots and lots of little succulents on sale at Trader Joe’s — including the Echeveria hybrid ‘Blue Curls‘ I’d posted about here a while ago (in my 9/19/17 posting “Blue Curls”):

I’d been looking for the plant anyway, so this was a great (accidental) find.

And then there was a little miscellaneous succulent garden, with four plants in it (none identifed, of course). Putting them all together:

(#2) Blue Curls, plus four succelents, three of them quite blue, one green and juniper-like

Juniper scale leaves for comparison:


But this is just a superficial resemblance. The succulent is some variety of the Rattail Crassula:


From Wikipedia:

Crassula muscosa (Linnaeus, 1760), also named Crassula lycopodioides (Lamarck) or Crassula pseudolycopodioides, is a succulent plant native to South Africa and Namibia, belonging to the family of Crassulaceae and to the genus Crassula. It is a houseplant grown worldwide and commonly known as Rattail Crassula, Watch Chain, Lizard’s Tail, Zipper Plant and Princess Pine.

Crassula muscosa has very small, light green leaves that are densely packed around a thin stem, and the arrangement of the leaves around the stems gives them a square shape. It grows as an intricate bush with very small yellow-green flowers, with a maximum height of 15–20 cm. It is an invasive species and easily propagated from stem cuttings. When in flower, the plant can produce a pungent, acrid smell not unlike cat urine.

The scientific and the common names refer to its appearance: muscosaderives from the Latin word muscosus, meaning “mossy”. Lycopodioides, referred to the clubmoss Lycopodium, derives from the Greek words “Λύκος” (líkos, wolf), “πόδι” (pódi, foot) and οειδής (oeides, -oid, similar to).

Hmm, we’ll see about the cat-urine smell. Boxwood (Buxus) flowers have never bothered me, though they too are said to smell like cat urine. And I get through the annual blooming of Callery pairs ok. From my 3/20/13 posting “Flowering pears and secretions”, on the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana): “The flowers smell like smegma”. (I guess I find the smell of smegma pungent but not not disgusting.)

The other sure identification is those fleshy blue-green fingers. A familiar plant from the Stanford Cactus Garden, where it provides carpets of ground cover. From Wikipedia:


Senecio serpens or blue chalksticks is a species of the genus Senecio and dwarf shrub from the family Asteraceae [the aster, daisy, or composite family of plants] that is indigenous to southern Africa. It needs little water, and is thus one of the many plants suggested for cultivation in Australia. [Latin serpens‘creeping’]

Recall here that succulent is a not a taxonomic term in botany, but a name for a style of growth: succulents are plants, of whatever taxonomic grouping, with fleshy leaves adapted to storing water. In this case, Senecio is a huge genus, embracing mostly plants that are in no ways succulents. From Wikipedia:

Senecio is a genus of the daisy family (Asteraceae) that includes ragworts and groundsels. The scientific Latin genus name, Senecio, means “old man.” [an allusion to the ashy or siler-gray foliage of a number of the species in the genus]

I’ll go off on a digression about the genus Senecio in a littke while. But first, to finish up on the succulents in the dish garden. One of them is almost surely an ordinary Echeveria species (nothing as extravagant as ‘Blue Curls’), perhaps something like E. secunda:

(#5) In my 3/1/17 posting “Two notable plants”, the second is an Echeveria species similar to E. secunda

I still haven’t identified the remaining succulent in the dish garden, a blue-green stalked plant.

Digression on Senecio. In my 8/9/13 posting “Intense but opposite: petunias and cinerarias”, I note that many species of Senecio have ashy leaves: see Senecio cineraria (Latin cinerarius‘ of ashes, ashy’) in #6 there:

(#5) A lovely foliage plant. with little yellow composite flowers

(There’s considerable disagreement about what belongs in the genus Senecio; Senecio cineraria is a synonym for Jaobaea maritima, dusty miller or silver ragwort.)

Earlier on this blog, in my 5/7/16 posting “The weed annals III”, #6 there is Common Ragwort or Stinking Willie (Senecio jacobaea), from Farm Weeds of Canada:


And so I turn once again to the 21st edition of Schröter’s Alpen-Flora (1st ed. 1899; the book is discussed in a 7/6/11 posting of mine), where there are two relevant plates:

(#7) Plate 12, composites

Fig. 8 Senecio abrotanifolius. Cut-leaved groundsel. Easily known by its delicately tipped, bi-pinnatedly cut leaves and its orange coloured heads with ray and disc flowerets. Species of the E. Alps, from about 1900-2000 m. [and note Fig. 4 Edelweiss]

(#8) Plate 14, more composites

Fig. 1 Senecio incanus. Hoary groundsel. The tongueshaped and tubular flowerets are of an orange yellow and form a beautiful contrast to the white woolly fur of the pinnate leaves.

On pastures, snowy valleys, in the West- and central Alps (the Valais, Ticino, Bernese Oberland, Uri).

Fig. 2 Senecio carniolicus. Carniol groundsel.Less grey and with broader, less cut leaves, otherwise very much resembling the previous species, whose place it takes in the E. part of our Alps (espec. the Grisons).

Meadows, grass, rocky débris, from about 1900-3100 m.

Fig. 6 Senecio Doronicum. Leopards-bane Groundsel. Recognized by its thick leathery leaves, which are somewhat rolled back and which are more or less whitish from close lying hairs. The stems are 20-30 cm high.

Rocky débris, grassy stony slopes, from about 1400-2670 m. Jura, Auvergne, Alps, Carpathans, Apennines, Balkan.

Coleus. We now leave the Alps for semi-tropical and tropcal climes. The coleus plant (Plectranthus (aka Solenostemonscutellarioides) is a species in the family Lamiaceae (the mint or deadnettle [or labiate] family), native to southeast Asia through to Australia, now bred in an extraordinary range of leaf colors. (Posting on this blog here.)

The ones Kim Darnell found for me at SummerWinds Nursery in Palo Alto are “Wizard mix”, of plants in the Wizard strain — there are a number of named strains — plus a pink feathery variety in the center of this pot:


A variety very similiar to ‘Pink Chaos’ (it might even be called ‘Pink Fairy’):


A pot of mixed Wizard plants, with a smaller pot on the ground below it:


All of this right out the window where I work.

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