Sedum palmeri

As a referee for both Kew and the Botanical Society of the British Isles I am regularly sent photographs of escapees in the UK or plants of Sedum, or near relatives, which have taken the fancy of travellers both at home and abroad. I think the species I have been most regularly asked to identify is a form of Sedum palmeri (once called S. compressum) that is probably the most favoured windowsill pot-plant in the Mediterranean. It is commonly seen in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and on many Mediterranean Isles. As it is Mexican in origin, it is perfectly happy with the Mediterranean climate and is grown in inland areas with short frost periods.

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Fig. 1 A tumbling specimen in Rhodes.

Here in England it can be fully hardy through mild winters near the coast where it flowers profusely in April. If kept as a greenhouse, porch or conservatory specimen it flowers in January, a delightful harbinger of spring.

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Fig. 2 January, in a cold porch, during the short days of winter at home in Northumberland.

Charles Uhl (1918-2010, a recognised authority on Sedum) showed the type S. palmeri to be diploid (with two sets of chromosomes) though this is now quite rare in cultivation. The tetraploid (four sets of chromosomes) form (S. compressum) is the widespread form in cultivation. Like all common windowsill plants it is easy to propagate from cuttings and, judging by the many plants one encounters in windowboxes while exploring Mediterranean towns and villages, there are plenty of stems to give away to friends and neighbours.

Ray Stephenson

The Sedum Society

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