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Crassula  Dillenius 1732
  Latin: crassus = thick

The genus Crassula includes around 200 species of succulent plants, ranging in size from less than an inch in height to 6 foot shrubs. Crassulas are distributed throughout the world, although the majority are from South Africa and there are few truly hardy species. Many attractive dwarf plants are available to the collector. Some species are monocarpic and die after flowering, just as the plant achieves perfection.
The best known species is probably C. ovata (Jade Plant). Numerous attractive hybrid Crassulas have been created. One of the most popular is C. mesembryanthemoides x C. falcata "Morgan's Beauty." Crassula "Buddha's Temple" is a hybrid between C. perfoliata v. falcata x C. pyramidalis.
 
C. helmsii (Australian Swamp Stonecrop) is a hardy aquatic invasive species that has become a major nuisance in inland waterways in England and elsewhere. Small 1 cm pieces grow rapidly and infest any slow-moving water.

 
Crassula habitat
Large Crassulas on a
South African hillside.
 

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Crassula arborescens
Habitat N. of Worcester, RSA  
Crassula arborescens
Cultivated plant, RBG Kew  

Crassula arborescens  Willdenow 1798 (Silver Dollar, Silver Jade Plant)
This succulent shrub from the Eastern Cape has a thick, freely branching 6ft trunk of soft wood with thin, peeling bark. Branches are quite brittle but the fleshy, jointed stems root easily where they touch the ground. The glaucous-blue obovate leaves have reddened margins. The inflorescence is a cluster of white or pale pink star-like flowers, produced in Winter.

Crassula ausensis ssp. ausensis
Cultivated plants RBG Kew
Crassula ausensis ssp. ausensis

Crassula ausensis ssp. ausensis  Hutchison 1952
A dwarf succulent plant with persistent obovate to oblanceolate leaves densely packed around the stem. The leaf surface may be patterned with whitish papillae. The inflorescence is a 3 - 4 inch stem, branching near the top and bearing a compact panicle of tubular white flowers with semi-fused petals.
 
Native to the succulent Karoo and Namibia. Several sub-species of this variable plant have been described.

Crassula brevifolia
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula brevifolia  Harvey 1862
The chunky obovate leaves are densely packed on the stem in opposite pairs. The leaves have flat upper surfaces with reddened margins, rounded lower surfaces and are lightly spotted in red. Clusters of white to pale pink flowers are produced at the stem tips in Autumn.
 
A plant of the succulent Karoo from the North-Western Cape of South Africa to Namibia.

Crassula x Buddha's Temple
Cultivated plant  

Crassula x "Buddha's Temple" Syn: Crassula x "Kimnachi"
This charming architectural plant is an artificial hybrid between C. perfoliata v. falcata x C. pyramidalis created by Myron Kimnach in 1959. The greyish-green heart-shaped thickened leaves are densely stacked to form a square column up to 6 in tall. The leaf surface has a silvery-white dusting of powder which is liable to be washed off unless plants are watered only from below. With time, side branches may form along the column. Clusters of bright red flower buds are produced at the apex of the stems, opening to pale pink flowers.

Crassula capitella
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    
Crassula capitella
Habitat plant, Knersvlakte  

Crassula capitella  Thunberg 1771
A small rosulate plant, solitary or clumping with lanceolate leaves reddening in the sun. The inflorescence is a dense spike of tiny white flowers.
 
This variable species incorporates many names formerly recognised as separate species and has several recognised sub-species, distributed across tropical East Africa, Namibia and South Africa.

Crassula cultrata
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula cultrata  Linneaus 1771
This branching plant grows up to 3 ft tall as an under-storey plant in thickets. The obovate leaves are spread in pairs along the red stems. The inflorescence is a dense spike of tubular cream-coloured flowers.
 
A plant of the succulent Karoo in the South African Cape.

Crassula deceptor
Habitat plant, van Rhyns Pass    
Crassula deceptor
Habitat plant, Knersvlakte    

Crassula deceptor  Schönland 1907
A dwarf columnar plant of the succulent Karoo, usually solitary or occasionally branched. The ovate-triangular grey-green leaves are tightly packed together and vary somewhat in shape.
 
Distributed in the succulent Karoo from Southern Namibia to the Northern Cape. Often associated with quartz gravel flats.

Crassula fusca
Cultivated plant, RBG Kew  

Crassula fusca  Herre 1953
Name: Latin fuscus = dull brown, dusky (referring to the anthers ?)

This Crassula forms shrublets up to 15 in tall. The ovate leaves on small plants become narrower and lanceolate as the plant grows larger and colour up red in full sun. The inflorescence is a thyrse of white to cream-coloured flowers with black anthers, produced in mid-summer.
 
Native to North-Western slopes of mountains near the mouth of the Orange River in Cape Province and into South-West Namibia.

Crassula helmsii
Author's plant    

Crassula helmsii  Cockayne 1907 (Australian Swamp Stonecrop, Pygmyweed)
This frost-hardy mat-forming Crassula is barely succulent and with insignificant white flowers has few redeeming qualities. Growing from fragments with a single node, it adapts to grow in shade or full sun in both moist soil or as free-floating mats clogging waterways. It is not difficult to find, even in some British nature reserves.
 
Native to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Introduced into Great Britain in 1911, it has become naturalised in many temperate countries. Despite its invasive nature it is still sold as an oxygenating aquarium plant. It grows well outdoors in a shallow bowl without drainage.

Crassula lactea
Cultivated plant, RBG Kew  

Crassula lactea  Aiton 1789 (Taylor's Parches) Syn. Toelkenia lactea
This trailing shrubby Crassula has brown stems bearing obovate leaves with a pointed tip. The upper surface of the leaf margin is marked with tiny white dots and some plants have reddened leaf margins. The branching inflorescence consists of clusters of fragrant white starry flowers on a long stalk.
 
Native to the South African Eastern Cape, Transvaal & Natal.

Crassula lanuginosa
Cultivated plant, RBG Kew    

Crassula lanuginosa var. lanuginosa  Harvey 1862
This protrate mat-forming plant has egg-shaped leaves covered in hairs. The leaves on the specimen illustrated are at the bottom end of the range (2 - 12 mm long) for this species and probably hairier than average, or perhaps the hairs don't grow in proportion to the leaf size.
 
Native to the Karoo of South Africa and Namibia. C. lanuginosa var. pachystemon has larger leaves.

Crassula montana ssp. quadrangularis
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula montana ssp. quadrangularis  Tolken 1975
Syn. Crassula gillii  Schönland 1907
 
The small, square rosettes formed from obovate leaves arranged oppositely, proliferate from their base to form dense mats. The tiny white flowers are formed into a globular head.
 
Native to the Western Cape of South Africa.

Crassula multicava
    Cultivated plant, RBG Kew
Crassula multicava
    plantlets on inflorescence

Crassula multicava  Lemaire 1862 (Fairy Crassula)
Name: Latin multi = many + cava = hole, referring to many pores on the leaves.

The upper surface of the thin, rounded leaves surface is patterned with hydathodes (water absorbing or secreting pores) which allow the leaves to absorb moisture. The branching inflorescence makes a spray of tiny pale pink, star-like flowers. Small plantlets sometimes form in the flower axils.
 
Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Natal and Mpumulanga. A common windowledge plant, which is readily propagated from cuttings, even single leaves or plantlets from the inflorescence.

Crassula muscosa
Habitat plant, Knersvlakte    
Crassula muscosa
Flowering at RBG Kew

Crassula muscosa  Linneaus 1760
The tiny leaves are densely packed around the branching stem to form a square or angular mass. In cultivation the leaves are bright green with a mossy appearance but in full sun adopt a bronze colour. Tiny white flowers are produced along the stem.
 
A variable plant, with several varieties described and more species names subsumed into those accepted. Widely distributed from the South Africa Cape to Namibia.

Crassula nudicaulis var. herrei
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula nudicaulis  Linnaeus 1753
A low-growing scrubby plant of variable appearance but generally only 5 in tall. The linear-obovate leaves have flattened upper surfaces, rounded undersides and may be pubescent or hairy. Margins and tips may be reddened and colour up more extensively in full sun.
Crassula nudicaulis incorporates numerous plants formerly regarded as separate species. Widely distributed in the succulent Karoo of the South African Cape, Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal.
 
Left: Crassula nudicaulis var. herrei  Tölken 1975   is native to the Northern Cape.

Crassula orbicularis
Habitat N. of Robertson, RSA
Crassula orbicularis

Crassula orbicularis  Linnaeus 1753
Flattened green rosettes formed from obovate leaves with ciliate margins, seen on the shady North side of a small kop. The rosettes offset to form dense groups. The inflorescence, produced in winter to mid-summer, is an elongated thyrse of short, tubular cream flowers.
 
Native to the South African Cape but typically a plant of shade under scrub and thickets.

Crasula ovata
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    
Crassula ovata

More about Jade Plants

Crassula ovata  Druce 1917   (Jade Plant, Money Plant)
Syn. C. argentea, C. portulaca
 
This is probably the best known Crassula and tolerates a certain amount of neglect. Specimens are seen on window-ledges and in offices everywhere. With proper care the plant can become a large 6-8 ft shrub, with fragrant flowers during the Winter if kept just frost free. The thick stems branch sparingly at the base, but more freely as the plant matures. The brittle, jointed stems have obovate green leaves, becomming reddened in full sun. Native to the Western Cape of South Africa.

Crasula ovata cv. Blue Surprise

Crassula ovata - selected cultivars
C. ovata c.v. 'Blue Surprise' - thin curled blue-green leaves. (Right)
C. ovata c.v. 'Crosby's Compact' - a dwarf cultivar.
C. ovata c.v. 'Gollum' - a monstrose cultivar with nearly tubular leaves whose ends are indented.
C. ovata c.v. 'Hobbit' - somewhat flatter curled leaves.
C. ovata c.v. 'Hummel's Sunset' - brightly coloured red, yellow and green leaves when grown in full sun.
C. ovata c.v. 'Lemon & Lime' - a variegated cultivar with marbled leaves.
C. ovata c.v. 'Pink Beauty' - clusters of pink flowers in early Winter.
C. ovata c.v. 'Skinny Fingers' - finger-like leaves whose ends are pointed.

Crasula ovata cv. Gollum

Left: Crassula ovata c.v. 'Gollum' Hort
This small shrubby succulent plant has nearly tubular leaves whose ends are indented like a suction cup. Flowers are similar to those of C. ovata. This plant may be a monstrose cultivar of C. ovata or a hybrid: Crassula argentea x C. lactea. Large numbers of these plants are propagated in the horticultural trade.
 
Picture: José Carlos Ibar Cuerda 2010

Crassula pellucida ssp. marginalis f. rubra

Crassula pellucida  Linnaeus 1753
Reddish stems bear decussate pairs of thickened ovate green leaves, with reddish margins in full sun. The inflorescence is a rounded panicle of many small white flowers tinged with pink.
 
Native to the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa. Several selected forms are in circulation.
 
Left: Crassula pellucida ssp. marginalis f. rubra  (Aiton) Toelken 1975
Syn: Crassula mariginalis variegata
This succulent plant forms a cascading mass of fleshy red, green and lemon variegated leaves.

Crassula perfoliata
Karoo Botanic Garden RSA    
Crassula perfoliata var. falcata
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula perfoliata  Linneaus 1753   Syn. Crassula falcata  Wendland 1798
A shrubby plant growing up to 2-3 ft tall. The panicle of bright red flowers contrasts splendidly with the gray-green foliage. Leaves are lanceolate to triangular-lanceolate.
 
Varieties with white and pink flowers also occur less commonly. Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Crassula perforata
Cultivated plant RBG Kew  
Crassula perforata flower

Crassula perforata  Thunberg 1778
Triangular, thin gray-green leaves with reddened margins and basally-fused in pairs are spaced out along the branching stems. The plants generally scramble along the ground although young stems are upright. Roots are fibrous.
 
Distributed across the South African Cap and KwaZulu-Natal. Crassula perforata includes several former separate species.

Crassula nealeana
Cultivated plants RBG Kew    
Crassula nealeana

Crassula perforata  Thunberg 1778
Syn. Crassula nealeana  Higgins 1955
 
A variety with fleshy obovate gray-green leaves, fused in pairs and arranged more closely around the stem. The inflorescence is an elongated thyrse of small tubular cream flowers with yellow stamens.
 

Crassula pyramidalis
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula pyramidalis  Thunberg 1778
An upright to sprawling plant with triangular scale-like leaves tightly packed in four ranks around the stem to give an overall quadrangular, neat, almost mossy appearance. Cultivated plants are usually greener than those in habitat.
 
A plant of the succulent Karoo in the South African Cape.

Crassula pyramidalis var. scabrispina
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula pyramidalis var. scabrispina  Thunberg 1778
A sprawling plant with triangular scale-like leaves tightly packed in four ranks around the stem to give an overall quadrangular, neat, almost mossy appearance. The green plant adopts a bronze colour in full sun.
 
A plant of the succulent Karoo in the South African Cape.

Crassula rupestris
Karoo Botanic Garden RSA    

Crassula rupestris  Thunberg 1778
A succulent shrub with flattened succulent leaves basally fused in pairs around the branching stem. The upper leaf surface is slightly concave with a convex underside. Leaf margins redden in full sun but otherwise leaves are grey-green.
 
Native to the Nothern Cape of South Africa into Namibia.

Crassula marneriana
Cultivated plants RBG Kew    
Crassula marneriana
 

Crassula rupestris ssp. marneriana  Tölken 1975
Syn. Crassula marneriana  Huber & Jacobsen 1951
 
A small, prostrate variety of C. rupestris. The leaves are thicker and pairs fused into rounded discs, tightly packed around the branching stem to give an overall rounded structure. The leaf margins reddens in full sun.
 
A plant of the succulent Karroo of the Western Cape.

Crassula sarcocaulis
Author's plant    

Crassula sarcocaulis  Ecklon & Zeyher 1837
This hardy sub-shrub has a profusion of small pink flowers during the summer. Possibly the only Crassula able to withstand the cold-wet English Winter, given a sunny position and well drained soil. It can also be treated as a bonsai and pruned to make a very nice specimen up to 12 inches tall. Any bit of stem stuck in the soil will root and grow into another plant.
 
Distributed from the Eastern Cape of South Africa to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Crassula sarcocaulis ssp. sarcocaulis grows in the Drakensberg mountains.
A white-flowered form (C. sarcocaulis alba) is in cultivation.

Tillea pentandra
University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

Crassula schimperi ssp. schimperi  Gilbert 2000
Syn. Tillea pentandra  Royle 1846
Crassula schimperi grows as a sprawling mat of succulent green stems with lanceolate leaves. The stems become brown and woody with age.
 
Widely distributed in mountains up to 13,000 ft from East Africa to Yemen, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and China.

Crassula socialis
Cultivated plant RBG Kew    

Crassula socialis  Schönland 1929
Square rosettes, formed from four ranks of triangular leaves, proliferate at their base to form dense mats. The inflorescence is produced in the Spring to early Summer and consists of one or more rounded heads of many tiny tubular white flowers on a relatively long, branching stem.
 
Grows among rocks in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Not cold-wet hardy but tolerates a cold dry Winter.

Crassula swaziensis
Cultivated plant RBG Kew  

Crassula swaziensis  Schönland 1897
A low-growing plant with rounded flat green leaves packed around the stem, but with an open appearance. Flowers in late Summer to Autumn with rounded heads of many tiny tubular white flowers on a relatively long stem.
 
Distributed in bushveld and grassland of Zimbabwe, and North-Eastern South Africa.

Crassula tecta
Cultivated plant RBG Kew  

Crassula tecta  Thunberg 1778
A dwarf mostly solitary succulent, occasionally branching. A small rosette is formed from ovate, grey leaves with a papillate surface. Flowers in winter with a globular cluster of small, tubular cream flowers.
 
A plant of the succulent Karoo of the Western Cape of South Africa.

Cultivation

While Crassulaceae will generally tolerate a wide range of light levels, the compact growth and leaf colouration seen in their habitat requires high light levels, preferably direct sunlight. Jade plants and other tender species enjoy a sunny position on the patio during the summer. As with other succulents a gritty potting medium is suitable. Overwatering encourages roots and lower stems to rot. If this happens, the stem should be cut back to healthy tissue, dried off for a couple of weeks and replanted in a dryish free-draining potting mixture. Many species will re-root easily.
 
In frost-free Mediterranean climates, many Crassulas are suitable for the garden. There are few truly hardy Crassulas suitable for the British garden and similar climates with cold-wet winters, although C. sarcocaulis is a fully hardy exception.
 
The main pests are root and stem mealy bugs. Crassulaceae were generally intolerant of many older insecticides, especially Malathion. I have seen no adverse reaction from watering Crassulaceae with systemic insecticides based on Imidacloprid e.g. Provado Vine Weevil Killer. This will protect against many insect pests but has little effect on red spider mites. Prophylactic treatment with Imidacloprid is advisable if plants grown outside during the summer are brought indoors.