CRASSULA MULTICAVA

I seem to mentioning the drought rather frequently still – odd this, when parts of the country have already experienced flooding and hailstorms. We have rejoiced in the little rain that has come our way in the Eastern Cape: mostly in the form of drizzle so light that one wouldn’t bother to reach for an umbrella, yet enough to green up the grass and to encourage the trees to put out leaves. Our landscape has been transformed by the different hues of green as well as a few wild flowers here and there. One of our main water storage dams is completely empty; another I drive past regularly probably only has enough water to fill an average home swimming pool; while an aerial view of yet another shows only a thin stream of water. The latter dam used to be so full that the local rowers would use it for regattas! Alas, no more …

Hence the joy I take in drought-resistant blossoms that either grow in my garden or in the veld within easy walking distance. Our garden has always been blessed with a generous sprinkling of Crassula multicava, also known as Fairy Crassula. It was many years before I discovered what it was called: even though it can be found in many gardens in this town, no-one seemed to have a name for it. A common response I would get is “I don’t know, it seems to grow wild here.”

A ‘wild’ plant it is too for it grows all over the garden and forms a good ground cover even in the deep shade, whilst appearing to be equally happy in the sunshine. Their leaves are flat and roundish. If you look closely you might notice the tiny spots on them. These are what might have given rise to another common name for this plant, Pitted Crassula.

The colour of the leaves vary from light to dark green depending on whether the plants are growing in the sun or the shade. They contain hydathodes (which are water-secreting pores), which serve for rapid absorption of water from the leaf surface – making them ideal ‘drought’ plants. Dainty white, or pale pink, star-shaped flowers appear in sparse clusters from about May to November.

These are best appreciated when seen in a mass and attract a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies.

Crassula multicava occurs naturally from the southern Cape, through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, into Mpumalanga. They multiply rapidly – if they can do that in my drought-stricken garden, then imagine what they can do under ideal conditions. This is because, apart from the expected dispersal of seeds, these plants root easily and spread from leaves that fall or break off from the mother plant. Another form of self-propagation is that the Crassula multicava produces plantlets on the flower-head that drop off and develop into independent plants.

They seem to have all bases covered!

25 thoughts on “CRASSULA MULTICAVA

    • There are several common names for this plant, apart from the Fairy Crassula (which I too prefer) and Pitted Crassular mentioned above. They are also known as London Pride (why, I wonder!), Mosquito Flower (because they are such tiny blossoms?), and Cape Pygmyweed (what an odd name!). This is why I selected its scientific name for the title. As for becoming a pest: any plant that grows sans watering assistance in a drought-stricken garden is welcome. It does spread prolifically. If it gets in the way I pull it out and toss the plants somewhere else – where they will inevitably grow to cover a bare spot 🙂

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      • Oh, you have Cape Chestnuts! They are beautiful trees! I’m so envious. I’ve just “discovered” them – had never seen one before! Such delicate, orchid-like flowers, lovely deep green leaves and attractive pods. I helped myself to a ripened pod from a tree growing beside a gravel road and am planning to plant the two seeds remaining in the already split-open pod. I imagine they will be slow growing, being indigenous? All the fast growers seem to be imports/aliens.

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  1. I adore those delicate little starry flowers. A friend gave me a few little cuttings many years ago and, as you said, they grow so easily. Mine grow in a bed beneath a mature viburnum and are mostly shaded, but they still put on a lovely show each year.
    I didn’t know very much about them, other than the fact that I like them – I’m now a lot more informed thanks to you.

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    • Thank you Pete: this time I knew beforehand what I wanted to highlight and went into the garden to photograph the different aspects specifically for this post. I am seldom that organised!

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  2. Very interesting info here Anne about a plant that we do tend to take for granted and it is true about them often being ‘nameless’ even though so familiar.
    I take advantage of their obliging growth habits and use them a lot as ground cover especially in the new beds we have made to reduce the amount of lawn. Bees and other pollinators seem to love them when they are flowering.

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