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Biting Stonecrop

Sedum acre

  • Name also: Common Stonecrop, Wall-pepper, Wallpepper, Goldmoss Stonecrop, Goldmoss Sedum
  • Family: Stonecrop Family – Crassulaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Loosely tufted, forming mat-like stands.
  • Height: 5–12 cm (2–4.8 in.). Stem ascending–limp.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), bright yellow, approx. 1.5–2 cm (0.6–0.8 in.) broad; petals five, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.32 in.) long, tapered and sharp-tipped. Sepals 5, fleshy. Stamens 10. Gynoecium separate, pistils 5. Inflorescence a 3–6-flowered cyme.
  • Leaves: Alternate, not in clear rows, stalkless, ascending oblique. Densely leaved on upper part of flowerless stems, sparsely leaved on flowering stems. Blade ovate–quite round, blunt-tipped, fleshy, glabrous, lime green–reddish.
  • Fruit: 5 united, many-seeded follicles.
  • Habitat: Rocks, shingle, sandy areas, gravelly seashores, meadows, dry-stone walls, roadsides, wasteland. Also an ornamental, often wild.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Biting stonecrop – like other members of its genus in general – stores water in its leaves and is called a succulent. The species has adapted to dry habitats with the aid of a structure that stores water and reduces evaporation. Biting stonecrop can thrive in unbelievably thin soils and can survive up to half a year without water. It is a native wild plant, growing on rocks by the sea on dry, sandy meadows on the upper part of the shore as far north as the tip of the Bay of Bothnia. Succulents that grow on the beach are better able to stand random splashes of salt water. Biting stonecrop’s follicles open only in the rain and the seeds spread with raindrops and running water far from the parent plant – a surprising adaptation for a plant that grows on dry, rocky places.

People have also transplanted biting stonecrop to rockeries as an ornamental. It survives well in its growing place and in the places it spreads to, and seeds that have spread inland from sea shores can grow on rocks, river banks, dry meadows and roadsides around inhabited areas. Thanks to its way of growing it does not mind being trampled and it also thrives in rocky urban embankments and other structures. Apart from being grown as an ornamental, biting stonecrop has also had a career as a medicinal. Nowadays it is no longer recommended however: the bitter-tasting fluid in its leaves (acris, Lat. acrid) can cause skin rashes, and it is regarded by some as being poisonous.

Biting stonecrop looks a lot like tasteless stonecrop (S. sexangulare), whose linearly broad leaves are, especially on flowerless shoots, arranged in dense rows of six. Tasteless stonecrop only grows wild in Finland on the Åland Islands and it is rarely cultivated. Biting stonecrop also bears a slight resemblance to annual stonecrop (S. annuum). These species can be differentiated from each other by e.g. annual stonecrop’s flattish and sparsely haired leaves.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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