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Plant Highlight: Crassula perfoliata var. falcata
There are many plant families containing succulents, but few which consist almost entirely of succulents. One such family is the Crassulaceae, often called the Stonecrop Family, whose members are prominently featured at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. This family contains many familiar garden subjects including sedums (stonecrop), echeverias (hen-and-chicks), sempervivums (houseleeks), graptopetalums (ghost plants), etc. The family takes its name from Crassula, a genus of about 300 species found mostly in South Africa. One of the most familiar species is the jade tree (C. ovata, also sometimes labeled as C. argentea). However, this plant is quite large for the genus. Smaller than this, but still good-sized for a Crassula, is C. perfoliata var. falcata, the subject of our August Plant Highlight.
Crassula perfoliata var. falcata was long considered a separate species from C. perfoliata, and so it is widely known simply as Crassula falcata. It has curving, sickle-shaped leaves and is sometimes called the sickle plant or propeller plant. Its leaves are gray or gray-green, and they may be up to 8 inches (20 cm) long, though usually less than this. Plants may grow to 2 feet (60 cm) or more in height, but the stems often sprawl to the side if they get too long. In California gardens, C. perfoliata var. falcata usually flowers in July and August. While most species of Crassula have flowers in the white-to-pink range, those of C. perfoliata var. falcata are more vividly colored, varying from scarlet to salmon-red. They are held in a dense cluster above the apex of the stem.
Like most crassulas, C. perfoliata var. falcata comes from South Africa. It grows well in California gardens, and can endure without difficulty the mild frosts which occur periodically in our region. Plants can be propagated from cuttings, which strike root easily.