The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       August 2002      Number 8

The Succulents of South Wales and Cornwall
Text & Photo by Linda Cooley

While exploring castles in south Wales, I was surprised to find a succulent growing out of the walls of the castles. This succulent was a charming plant, with thick, circular leaves and long spikes of white flowers. Its name is Umbilicus rupestris, commonly called Wall Pennywort. It belongs to the Crassula family. It was quite common throughout south Wales and was also seen in Cornwall, which is farther south and much warmer. The environment it seemed to prefer was rather odd for a succulent. In Wales, it was cold (for July) and very rainy--In the winter it would be quite a bit colder than Bakersfield and much, much rainier. However, a little research revealed that this plant is native to the Mediterranean! So it seems very adaptable. Maybe if I built a castle, I could get some to grow here....
In Cornwall (which is the south-west corner of England, and is considered the Banana Belt), I continued to see Umbilicus, but more often saw White Stonecrop, Sedum album . This mat-forming plant grows in many places, including on roofs! I saw it growing particularly well in the rocky regions along the Cornish Coastal Path. I kept my eyes open for Yellow Stonecrop, but never spotted any. There were beautiful natural rock gardens in many locations along the Path, filled with wild thyme and a variety of plants that I have seen advertised in catalogs for rock gardens. It is unfortunate that our climate is unfavorable for growing these kinds of plants...I think the only way to do it in Bakersfield would be to have a "cool" greenhouse in the summer!

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