This bushy succulent with pinkish white, star-shaped flowers is a very useful groundcover or can be used as an attractive hanging basket subject.
Crassula spathulata is a drought tolerant, semi-hardy evergreen groundcover. It is a low growing, creeping succulent and can form a dense mat. In the garden, this growth habit is good for water retention and prevention of weeds. It has small pinkish white star shaped flowers with petals up to 4.5 mm in length. Flowering time is mostly from spring to summer but flowers have been recorded from the plant throughout the year. The leaves are almost rounded and slightly crenate-dentate (leaf margins have blunt or rounded teeth) with a reddish tinge on the margins. The stems are slender, prostrate and slightly four angled (quadrangular).
Crassula spathulata is not threatened in the wild, as it is Red Listed as Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Crassula spathulata usually occurs on rocky outcrops along forest margins. It grows in most soils especially soils allowing good drainage. The plants are fast growers and can form thick mats below trees. They grow very well in semi-shaded areas but can also grow in full sun—the leaves turn slightly red when exposed to too much sunlight. Crassula spathulata has a widespread distribution throughout the southern parts of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, particularly along the Knysna and Transkei coastal area, and along the forest margins of KwaZulu-Natal.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Crassula is the Latin diminutive of crassus , meaning ‘thick'. This is in reference to the plump leaves of many members of the genus. The specific name spathulata is derived from the Latin word spathulatus meaning ‘spatula-shaped' and refers to the shape of the leaves. Crassula was first named in 1862 and the genus contains about 150–200 species, most of them occurring in South Africa. Most members are succulent perennials with only a few shrubby and tree-like species.
Uses and cultural aspects
Crassula spathulata grows very well along pathways, on rocky embankments, hanging baskets, and they do well as perennial container plants. They make beautiful displays when planted in large groups in shaded or semi-shaded areas.
Growing Crassula spathulata
Crassula spathulata grows easily from either cuttings or seeds. Make stem cuttings from mature plants; these can be grown all year round. They root quickly in a well-drained medium, such as coarse river sand, even without the assistance of growth or rooting hormones. The seeds are very fine and must be harvested as soon as the fruits ripen when the inflorescences turn brown. Sow seeds on a damp, sandy medium and keep them under shade until they are ready for transplanting into bigger containers.
References and further reading
- Court, D.1981 Succulent flora of Southern Africa . A.A.Balkema, Cape Town.
- Dold, A.P. & Cocks, M.L. 1999. Preliminary list of Xhosa plant names from the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Bothalia 29,2: 267–292.
- Jacobsen, H. 1974 Lexicon of succulent plants . Blandford Press, London.
- Khumbula Indigenous Nursery; http://kumbulanursery.co.za/plants/crassula-spathulata