Friends of friends

At Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden this morning, two sort of familiar plants — a big upright succulent just coming into bloom, a small tree (or large shrub) with silver-green leaves and still green berries. The first a new (to me) variety of the familiar spectabile species (‘Autumn Fire’ rather than ‘Autumn Joy’ — hey, fall is coming fast), with a unfamiliar (to me) genus name (Hylotelephium instead of Sedum). The second both like the familiar olive (Olea europaea) and like the familiar  Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), but not quite either of them: a merely olive-like Elaeagnus rather than an actual Olea, and commutata ‘silverberry’ rather than angustifolia.

Among the sedums (using sedum as a common name, a synonym of stonecop), there are creeping ground-cover species (I’ve posted about several) and upright species (a foot to a foot and a half tall). I’ve long known Sedum spectabile in its variety ‘Autumn Joy’:


From Wikipedia:

Hylotelephium spectabile (formerly called Sedum spectabile) is a species of flowering plant in the stonecrop family Crassulaceae, native to China and Korea. Its common names include showy stonecrop, ice plant, and butterfly stonecrop. Growing to 45 cm (18 in) tall and broad, it is an herbaceous perennial with alternate, simple, toothed leaves on erect, unbranched succulent stems. The star-shaped pink flowers are borne in flat cymes 15 cm (6 in) across, in fall (autumn).

The specific epithet spectabile means “showy”.

This plant is valued in cultivation as drought-tolerant groundcover. Numerous cultivars have been produced.

(Elsewhere in Wikipedia: “Hylotelephium means ‘woodland distant lover’. ‘Hylo’ is derived from Greek, meaning ‘forest’ or ‘woodland’. ‘Telephium’, also derived from Greek, means ‘distant-lover’; the plant was thought to be able to indicate when one’s affections were returned.”)

The taxonomic status of this sedum has been a matter of some dispute; officially, it’s now in a genus of its own, rather than subsumed under the genus Sedum.

The cultivar ‘Autumn Fire’, which is what was on display in the Gamble Garden, is a more recent, and darker-colored, cultivar than ‘Autumn Joy’:


Meanwhile the small olive-like tree looked much like this, with berries still green (but more silvery leaves):


From Wikipedia on this versatile plant:

Elaeagnus commutata, the silverberry or wolf-willow, is a species of Elaeagnus [in the family Elaeagnaceae, the oleaster family] native to western and boreal North America, from southern Alaska through British Columbia east to Quebec, south to Utah, and across the upper Midwestern United States to South Dakota and western Minnesota. It typically grows on dry to moist sandy and gravel soils in steppes, meadows or woodland edges.

These plants are shrubs or small trees growing to 1–4 m tall. The leaves are broad lanceolate, 2–7 cm long, silvery on both sides with dense small white scales. The fragrant flowers are yellow, with a four-lobed corolla 6–14 mm long. The [red] fruits are ovoid drupes 9–12 mm long, also covered in silvery scales…

The species is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its silvery foliage.

Both the fruit and seeds of this plant are edible either cooked or raw [apparenty, it’s especially good in pies]. The fruit is very astringent unless it is fully ripe. The fruit is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals especially A, C and E. As well it is a fairly good source of essential fatty acids[, which] are rarely found in fruits. This plant, like legumes, is able to fix nitrogen. When grown in orchards as a companion plant, it has been documented to increase fruit production by ten percent. Traditionally the fibrous bark of this tree has been twisted to make strong ropes, and woven into clothing and blankets.

On the related species E. angustifolia, see my 6/14/15 posting “Russian-olive”. And the etymology of the genus name, from Merriam-Wester Online:

New Latin, from Greek elaiagnos, a kind of willow, from elaia olive, olive tree + agnos chaste tree [< the adj. meaning ‘pure, chaste’]

And ripe berries of the species E. multiflora:


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