Cotyledon (2002)

PhotoBy Roy Kasten (November 2002)

In my hunts for new and unusual succulents, I generally go by looks rather than plant names. I end up with a lot of unnamed plants and then enjoy the challenge of trying to find their names. A few of these plants appear to be cotyledons.

Cotyledons are members of the Crassulaceae group. This small genus of around 10 species originates mostly in southern Arica. Winter-growing and -flowering, these plants can have hairy or smooth leaves of round, pointed or egg shape. Often the plants are quite variable within one species. They may have plain green leaves or whitish leaves with a flourlike, mealy white powder, or a red margin around the leaves.

One of the smaller species – suited to a small greenhouse or conservatory – is Cotyledon ladismithensis. A hairy-leaved variety, it flowers quite easily with bell-shaped orange flowers. It forms a small, bushy plant and is easily propagated from cuttings.

C. eliseae has only recently been named, having been around for a number of years as the “cotyledon from Quartz River Canyon.” Smaller than C. ladismithensis, it has glutionous hairs on its leaves; every particle of soil sticks to the leaves when it is repotted. C. eliseae makes a suitable subject for a hanging basket with deep orange flowers.

C. orbiculata has many forms, most having a bluish-white appearance to the leaves with a red margin. There is a form without the attractive hue to the leaves, but it is much less common. C. orbiculata is easy to cultivate from cuttings or leaves. The flowers are bell-shaped, with the tips of the orange petals splaying outward.

I have at least three or four Cotyledon species which I plan to bring to the next meeting. Bring yours, too, and perhaps you can help me identify the ones I have.