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Plant Highlight: Crassula sarcocaulis

January 2012

Crassula is a large genus, with a majority of its species native to South Africa.  Mostly they are on the small side, growing as single plants or small clumps.  A few have a tree-like form, but in miniature, and one of these is Crassula sarcocaulis, native to the eastern part of South Africa and neighboring countries.

  Crassula sarcocaulis reaches a height of about a foot to a foot and a half (30 to 45 cm), with a gray or tannish-brown trunk which may develop peeling bark on older plants. The leaves are bright green and range from narrowly elliptical to almost cylindrical, but with flattened upper sides. They are about ¾ inch to just over an inch in length (20 to 30 mm).  Because of its tree-like habit, this plant makes a nice bonsai subject, and is sometimes used as a miniature tree in a dish garden.

Many sources list Crassula sarcocaulis as summer-flowering, but our plant at the Ruth Bancroft Garden is flowering in winter.  The flower color for this species can be white or pink, and ours is white.  The tiny urn-shaped or bell-shaped flowers are borne in small clusters at the tips of the branches.  Like other crassulas, they have 5 petals.

This species is very easy to propagate, since cuttings root readily.  It is cold-hardy in our area, so it does not require any winter protection.