Aeonium davidbramwellii H.Y.Liu

Aeonium is a small, popular genus of Crassulaceae comprising 39 currently recognised species together with many more hybrids (both natural and artificial), variegates and cristates. The name Aeonium is derived from the Greek ‘aionion’ meaning ‘everlasting plant’, in recognition of the succulent nature and assumed longevity of the plants. Of the 33 species that occur naturally in the Canary Islands (Bañares Baudet, 2015), La Palma is home to nine species of which just three are endemic, including Aeonium davidbramwellii. This was first described by Liu (1989) to commemorate the English botanist David Bramwell, who spent most of his career studying the Canary Island flora as Director of the Jardín Canaria, Gran Canaria. He, together with his wife Zoe, published two landmark books on the subject, such that the second of these remains the ‘go to’ guidebook on plants for visitors to these wonderful islands (Bramwell & Bramwell, 2001). His eponymous species is common on rocks, soil banks and cliffs up to 1,000m (Liu, 1989).

This plant forms subshrubs up to 1m tall (Fig. 1). Although the stem can be either unbranched or branched, all my specimens have remained unbranched in the 15 years I have been growing this species. I therefore suspect that branching is strongly genetically determined and I have material sampled from a population of non-branching individuals. The stem surface is reticulately smooth and marked by prominent leaf scars. The leaves which form a tightly flat-topped rosette (Fig. 2), are obovate to spathulate, up to 12cm or more long, 4cm wide and relatively thick and succulent. They are dark green to yellow-green with a reddish margin and often red or brown tinged, especially if plants are kept dry in the winter when the whole rosette can turn an attractive pale chocolately-brown. Leaf margins are fringed with unicellular hairs (technically termed trichomes) only 0.5mm long. The inflorescence is dome-shaped and up to 35cm tall bearing white flowers with green mid-striped petals (Fig. 3).

My friend Tina Wardhaugh first raised seedlings of this species for me from seed distributed by the BCSS in 2005. The first batch of seedlings took around seven years to reach flowering size and since the plants were all solitary and monocarpic they all died after flowering. However, I collected seed from which I raised a second batch of seedlings (Fig. 4) which are now reaching maturity with the first three specimens flowering in February–April 2021 (Fig. 3). The rest of this second batch of seedlings will most likely flower and die in 2022.

 Colin C Walker


Bañares Baudet, A (2015) Las plantas suculentas (Crassulaceae) endémicas de las Islas Canarias. Turquesa Ediciones, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Bramwell, D & Bramwell, Z (2001) Wild flowers of the Canary Islands. 2nd edition. Editorial Rueda SL, Madrid.

Liu, H.-Y (1989) Systematics of Aeonium (Crassulaceae). Special Publications Number 3, National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan.

No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS & the Author 2021

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