Crassula coccinea L.

Family: Crassulaceae
Common name:
Klipblom, Red crassula

Crassula coccinea

Hiking up Table Mountain in midsummer to find the red disa Disa uniflora in flower, one is sure to see the brilliant red Crassula coccinea hanging from the cliffs. If lucky, and patient, one will also see the mountain pride butterfly Meneris tulbaghia, which pollinates both. This large butterfly with chocolate brown wings has the unique behavior of being drawn to the colour red. With its long proboscis or tongue, the mountain pride butterfly is able to reach for nectar in the narrow flowers of Crassula coccinea and other species with large red flowers such as the cluster disa Disa ferruginea, the Guernsey lily Nerine sarniensis and the iris Tritoniopsis triticea.


Crassula coccineaCrassula coccinea occurs naturally in the Western Cape where it grows on the quartzitic sandstone mountains on bare rocks or shrubby slopes usually at altitudes of 800 metre and higher. A small succulent shrublet about 400mm high, it has a few stems that branch from the base. As the plants get older the bottom of the stems turn brown and dry with the bright, new leaves at the ends. The succulent leaves are flat, oval shaped and arranged to overlapping each other along the stems. In midsummer (January - March) the striking flowers are formed in a dense flat-topped head at the tip of the stems. The long tubular flowers are fragrant and brilliant red, especially in sunshine.

Crassula coccinea in Marloth's Flora of SAThe botanist, Rudolph Marloth explains in his description of Crassula coccinea published in Flora of South Africa (1913-1932) as follows " This dazzling brightness of the flower is principally due to the dome-shaped form of the epidermal cells, each acting like a combination of a convex lens with a concave reflector."

Growing Crassula coccinea

Crassula coccinea are easy to grow and flower in the garden where they look good in a rockery, pots or planted in a bed. This is an excellent waterwise plant that needs full sun and good drainage. The plants grow fast and can flower in their first year. They get untidy after a few years and are best replaced after about 3 years. Plants are subject to rust, but sensitive to fungal sprays.

Crassula coccineaCrassula coccinea can be propagated from seed or cuttings. The seed is best sown during autumn in shallow trays filled with a sandy mixture. Germination is usually very good and within about 3 weeks. The seedlings can be planted out as soon as they are big enough to handle into small containers and grown on. Cuttings root well in any sandy mixture.

There are about 200 species of Crassula found predominantly in the southern hemisphere and mainly southern Africa.

 

 


Ernst van Jaarsveld & Liesl van der Walt
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
January 2001



To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.
This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.