Monday, October 29, 2007

Stonecrop - Orostachys

This is a surprise for me find to a native succulent in urban China near Shanghai. I first spotted it on a rooftop at Zhujiajiao, a water town just an hour plus from Shanghai. It is growing out between overlapping roof tiles. It is the tall inflorescence that caught my attention. The rooftop mirrors its native ecology - nutrient poor environment, lack of competitive plant species, unhindered exposure to full sun and excellent drainage amongst rocks. The roots anchor steadfast to some dried moss; there is no competitors on this rooftop niche. The following day during excursion to Suzhou, i noted more localities - in LiuYuan (Lingering Garden) and HuQiu (Tiger Hill) on pre-refurbished rooftops.

After doing some research at Shanghai, Fuzhou road bookstores... i manage to narrow it down to Orostachys fimbriatus. It is common plant, use in traditional medicine with poisonous properties... and i quote this from Flora of China 8: 206–209. 2001.

Orostachys fimbriata (Turczaninow) A. Berger in Engler & Prantl, Nat.
Pflanzenfam., ed. 2, 18a: 464. 1930.
瓦松 wa song
Cotyledon fimbriata Turczaninow, Bull. Soc. Imp. Naturalistes Moscou 17: 241. 1844; C. fimbriata var. ramosissima (Maximowicz) Maximowicz; Orostachys fimbriata var. grandiflora F. Z. Li & X. D. Chen; O. fimbriata var. shandongensis F. Z. Li & X. D. Chen; O. jiuhuaensis X. H. Guo & X. L. Liu; O. ramosissima (Maximowicz) V. V. Byalt; Sedum fimbriatum (Turczaninow) Franchet; S. fimbriatum var. ramosissimum (Maximowicz) Fröderström; S. limuloides Praeger; S. ramosissimum (Maximowicz) Franchet; Umbilicus fimbriatus (Turczaninow) Turczaninow; U. ramosissimus Maximowicz.

Rosette leaves linear, short; appendage white, suborbicular, cartilaginous, centrally spinose, margin fimbriate. Stem leaves linear to lanceolate, 1.9–3 × 0.2–0.5 cm, apex spinose. Flowering stem 10–20(–40) cm. Inflorescence racemose or basally branched and conical, dense, 12–25 × 10–20 cm; bracts linear, apex acuminate; pedicels to 1 cm. Sepals oblong, 1–3 mm. Petals red or white, lanceolate elliptic, 5–6 × 1.2–1.5 mm, base connate for ca. 1 mm, apex acuminate. Stamens shorter than or equaling petals; anthers purple. Nectar scales subquadrangular, apex ubemarginate. Follicles oblong, apical beak slender, ca. 1 mm. Seeds numerous, ovoid, minute. Fl. Aug–Sep, fr. Sep–Oct.

Rocks on slopes, house roofs, mossy tree trunks; below 1600 m (to 3500 m in Gansu and Qinghai). Anhui, Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Zhejiang [Korea, Mongolia, Russia].
This species is used medicinally.

China is actually fairly rich in crassulaceae, with 233 out of 1500 species. With more species in Sedum, Rhodiola, Sinocrassula, Hylotelephium. So... keep your eyes open when you go on holidays.