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(Stonecrop family)


Members of this moderately sized family of 35 genera and 1500 species are of cosmopolitan distribution, but are mostly found in southern Africa. Most species are perennials living in dry, especially rocky, places and are xerophytic.

A number of species are found in cultivation, often as rock-garden plants, but also as house, greenhouse, and border plants. Typically, they have fleshy leaves and stems. The principal genera found in cultivation are Cotyledon L., Crassula L., Kalanchoe Adans., Sedum L., and Sempervivum L.

The fleshy rootstock of rose root (Rhodiola rosea L., syn. Sedum rosea Scop.) emits a fragrance of attar-of-rose (Rosa damascena Mill., fam. Rosaceae) when bruised.

Irritant and possibly sensitising properties have been ascribed to a few species, but little or nothing is known about the nature of the irritants. The cobalt and nickel accumulating properties of certain Crassula L. species may be of local dermatological significance.

Cotyledon orbiculata L.
(syns Cotyledon ambigua Salisb., Cotyledon canaliculata Baker, Sedum decussatum Kuntze, Sedum orbiculatum Kuntze, etc.)
Pig's Ear, Round-Leafed Navel-Wort

In the traditional medicine of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where the plant is known locally as ipewula or imphewula, the fresh leaves and cuticle are made into a poultice and applied to wounds, scratches, sores and ulcers (Grierson & Afolayan 1999)

Crassula alba Forsskal
(syns Crassula abyssinica A.Rich., Crassula milleriana Burtt Davy, Crassula recurva N.E.Br., Crassula rubicunda E.Mey. ex Harv., Crassula stewartiae Burtt Davy)

This species have been found to accumulate cobalt when growing in soils rich in this element (Malaisse et al. 1979). An average content of about 1400 μg/g (ppm) was recorded from dried plant material. The sensitising properties of cobalt and its salts are well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016).

Crassula globularioides Britten ssp argyrophylla Toelken
(syns Crassula argyrophylla Diels ex Schönland & Baker f., Crassula swaziensis Schönland)

Wild (1975) found 3900 μg/g (ppm) nickel in the dried roots of Crassula argyrophylla growing on serpentine soil in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), showing it to be a hyperaccumulator of this element. The sensitising properties of nickel are well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016).

Crassula ovata Druce
(syns Cotyledon ovata Mill., Crassula argentea Thunb., Crassula articulata Zuccagni, Crassula nitida Schönland, Crassula portulacea Lam., Toelkenia ovata P.V.Heath)
Chinese Rubber Plant, Dollar Plant, Jade Plant

Lynne-Davies & Mitchell (1974) applied portions of the fresh leaf of Crassula argentea to the backs of 2 males for 48 hours under occlusion. Neither irritant reactions nor delayed flares occurred.

Crassula vaginata Eckl. & Zeyh.
(syns Crassula crassiflora K.Schum., Crassula drakensbergensis Schönland, Crassula mannii Hook.f., Crassula spectabilis Schönland, Sedum crassiflorum Kuntze)
Yellow Crassula

This species have been found to accumulate cobalt when growing in soils rich in this element (Malaisse et al. 1979). An average content of about 1400 μg/g (ppm) was recorded from dried plant material. The sensitising properties of cobalt and its salts are well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016).

Kalanchoe Adans.

Mabberley (2008) noted that the genus comprises 138 species of succulent shrubs and herbs found in southern and eastern Africa, Madagascar, and in Asia. Some are widely naturalised and indeed invasive elsewhere, including in Australia and the Galapagos.

Kuligowski et al. (1992) observed a weak positive patch test reaction to the leaf of an unidentified Kalanchoe species in a patient who presented with contact allergy to a hortensia (see Hydrangea macrophylla Ser., fam. Hydrangeaceae).

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana Poelln.
(syn. Kalanchoe globulifera H.Perrier var coccinea H.Perrier)
Christmas Kalanchoe, Flaming Katy, Florist's Kalanchoe, Madagascar Widow's-Thrill

Agrup et al. (1970) included "Kalanchoë blossfeldiana" in a list of substances to which they had observed a positive patch test reaction on testing 140 patients with suspected contact allergy, but provided no further detail.

Kalanchoe crenata Haw.
(syns Cotyledon brasilica Vell., Kalanchoe brasiliensis Cambess., Kalanchoe hirta Harv., Vereia crenata Andrews)
Lucky Leaf, Neverdie, Thick Leaf

Kalanchoe brasiliensis, known locally as saião or folha da fortuna, is used in Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of inflammation, injuries, and abscesses. A hydroethanolic extract of the leaves showed anti-inflammatory activity in the croton oil-induced acute ear oedema method and in assays involving various pro-inflammatory enzymes and mediators (Mayorga et al. 2017).

Kalanchoe densiflora Rolfe
(syn. Kalanchoe bequaertii De Wild.)
Air Plant

In the traditional medicine of Bulamogi county in Uganda, the leaves from this herb are warmed and applied as a poultice in the treatment of dermatitis (Tabuti et al. 2003). Bussmann (2006) noted that the Samburu pastoralists of the Mount Nyiru area in northern Kenya apply the plant as a poultice to wounds.

Kalanchoe integra Kuntze
(syns Cotyledon integra Medik., Cotyledon spathulata Poir., Kalanchoe nudicaulis Buch.-Ham. ex C.B.Clarke, Kalanchoe spathulata DC., Kalanchoe yunnanensis Gagnep., etc.)
Neverdie, Kalanchoé Spatulé

In Indian traditional medicine, the leaves of Kalanchoe spathulata are applied to wounds (Nadkarni 1976).

Kalanchoe laciniata DC.
(syns Cotyledon laciniata L., Kalanchoe gracilis Hance, Kalanchoe rosea C.B.Clarke, Kalanchoe schweinfurthii Penz.)
Christmas-Tree Kalanchoe, Fig-Tree Kalanchoe

In Indian traditional medicine, the leaves, either freshly bruised or roasted over a fire, are applied as a poultice to bruises and contusions. They are also applied as a styptic to fresh cuts and abrasions; and over insect bites (Nadkarni 1976).

Kalanchoe lanceolata Pers.
(syns Cotyledon lanceolata Forssk., Kalanchoe diversa N.E.Br., Kalanchoe glandulosa Hochst. ex A.Rich., Kalanchoe goetzei Engl., Kalanchoe platysepala Welw. ex Britten, etc.)
Yellow Stonecrop

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Kalanchoe pinnata Pers.
(syns Bryophyllum calycinum Salisb., Bryophyllum pinnatum Oken, Cotyledon pinnata Lam., etc.)
Air Plant, Curtain Plant, Floppers, Life Plant, Mexican Love-Plant, Miracle-Leaf

According to Ainslie (1937), in Nigerian native medicine the leaves of Bryophyllum calycinum mashed and warmed, and with warm palm oil added, are applied to rheumatism swellings. In a text on Indian materia medica, Nadkarni (1976) noted that the leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata are used in the same way as those of Kalanchoe laciniata DC. (see above). He noted also that the leaves of Bryophyllum calycinum are applied to wounds, boils, and the bites of insects. In a review of medicinal plants used for skin diseases in northeastern India, Begum & Nath (2000) found reports that the ground leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata are applied to blisters. Bershtein (1972) reported on the use of the juice of Kalanchoe pinnata for the treatment of leg ulcers.

Orostachys fimbriata A.Berger
(syns Cotyledon fimbriata Turcz., Umbilicus fimbriatus Turcz.)
Duncecap, Dunce's Caps

According to Stuart (1911) referring to Umbilicus fimbriatus in a text on Chinese materia medica, the sun-dried plant (which is known as Tso Yeh Ho Tsao) is used in an ointment for falling out of the eye-brows.

Sedum L.

Some 600 species of these fleshy leaved xerophytes have been described from northern temperate regions. One species also occurs in Peru.

Nicotine and other piperidine alkaloids have been reported to occur in various Sedum species (Marion 1945, Gill et al. 1979, Stevens et al. 1992, Stevens et al. 1995, Kim et al. 1996). See also Nicotiana tabacum L., fam. Solanaceae.

Sedum acre L.
(syns Sedum drucei Graebn., Sedum neglectum Ten., Sedum procumbens Schrank)
Mossy Stonecrop, Biting Stonecrop, Small Houseleek, Wallpepper, Gold Moss

Berhard Smith (1905) included this species in a listing of "simple irritants", noting that it has an acrid juice. In Western traditional medicine, the fresh herb and the expressed juice have been applied locally to old ulcers, warts, and other excrescences. When applied to the skin, the plant produces inflammation and vesication (Bulliard 1784, White 1887, Schaffner 1903, Remington et al. 1918, Flück & Jaspersen-Schib 1976, Stuart 1979).

Sedum aizoon L.
(syns Aizopsis aizoon Grulich, Phedimus aizoon 't Hart, Sedum ellacombeanum Praeger, Sedum kamtschaticum Fisch. & C.A.Mey. var ellacombeanum R.T.Clausen, Sedum yantaiense Debeaux)
Aizoon Stonecrop, Orange Stonecrop, Orpin Aizoon

The dried whole plant, known as Jing Tin San Qi (景天三七), is used in Chinese traditional medicine as a haemostat (Huang 1993).

Sedum album L.
(syns Oreosedum album Grulich, Sedum angulatum Mast., Sedum vermiculare Gaterau, etc.)
White Stonecrop, Worm Grass

Berhard Smith (1905) included this species in a listing of "simple irritants", noting that it has an acrid juice.

Sedum erythrostictum Miq.
(syns Hylotelephium erythrostictum H.Ohba, Sedum alboroseum Baker, Sedum okuyamae Ohwi)
Garden Orpine, Garden Stonecrop

In Chinese traditional medicine, the juice of the leaves of this plant (which is known as Ching Tien or Ba Bao (八宝) is a common domestic remedy in eruptions as well as an application to burns (Stuart 1911).

Sedum lineare Thunb.
Carpet Sedum, Needle Stonecrop

In Chinese traditional medicine, the plant (which is known as Fo Chia Tsao) is used as a local application in the treatment of burns and scalds (Stuart 1911).

Sedum praealtum A.DC.
Green Cockscomb, Greater Mexican Stonecrop

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sedum spathulifolium Hook.
(syns Echeveria spathulifolia De Smet ex É.Morren, Gormania anomala Britton, Sedum anomalum Britton, Sedum woodii Britton)

The Kuper Island Indians of the north-western coast of North America have used the sap from the leaves and stem as a styptic (Turner & Bell 1971).

Sedum spectabile Boreau
(syn. Hylotelephium spectabile H.Ohba)
Autumn-Flowering Sedum, Butterfly Stonecrop, Ice Plant, Orpin d'Automne

Biberstein (1927) observed a delayed (48h) positive patch test reaction to this species in a 22 year old female who presented with recurrent dermatitis of the face and hands.

Sedum telephium L.
(syns Hylotelephium purpureum Holub, Hylotelephium telephium H.Ohba, Sedum purpureum Schult., etc.)
Orpine, Live-Forever, Life Everlasting, Stonecrop

According to Remington et al. (1918), Sedum telephium was formerly used externally to cicatrize wounds. Flück & Jaspersen-Schib (1976) also refers to this use, adding that the fresh or withered plants are slightly rubefacient.

Sempervivum montanum L.
(syns Sempervivum debile Schott, Sempervivum monticola Lamotte)
Hen and Chickens, Mountain Houseleek

Pammel (1911) noted that this species has irritant properties, but provided no further detail; McCord (1962) similarly noted that the leaves can cause dermatitis but provided no further detail.

Sempervivum tectorum L.
(syns Sempervivum alpinum Griseb. & Schenk, Sempervivum andreanum Wale, Sempervivum glaucum Ten., etc.)
Common Houseleek, St Patrick's Cabbage, Hen and Chickens, Grande Joubarbe, Dachhauswurz

This species is planted on cottage roofs to keep slates in position. The plant may hybridise with Sempervivum montanum L. (above).

According to Wren (1975), the bruised fresh leaves have been applied as a poultice in inflammatory conditions of the skin such as burns and stings. Wren (1975) also notes that the juice is said to cure warts and corns.


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