Crassulaceae: Stonecrop Family — Dudleya

The Stonecrop family members are mostly succulents, with basal rosettes of fleshy leaves.  Dudleya have numerous cylindrical flowers, ranging from bright yellow to deep orange-red.  Other genera, such as Sedum (Stonecrop) and certain Crassula, have star-shaped flowers.  Some plants in this family have an unusual photosynthesis variation, called CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism).  These plants conserve water by keeping their pores closed during the day, and opening them at night.

Dudleyas are an attractive genus, except when trying to identify them.  Although some have clearly distinguishing characteristics, all of them hybridize readily.  Intergrades of at least four of the species found in Monterey are common.  In some species, the caudex (the woody, persistent base of the plant) is visible beneath the leaves, and its size can be an important element in identifying the plant.  The height of the flower stem can be another important indicator.

Sea Lettuce – Dudleya caespitosa

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal

Notes:

The peduncles curve upwards from their base, with a terminal cluster of bright yellow flowers, the petals united for < 1/3 of their length.  There are usually several basal rosettes of succulent, oblong to lanceolate or roundish leaves which are up to 20 cm long.  Leaves are often more green than gray in color, unlike Bluff Lettuce (Dudleya farinosa, see below).

Low Canyon Dudleya – Dudleya cymosa subsp. pumila

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

5–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Rocky cliffs, slopes

Notes:

At first sight, this resembles Lance-leaved Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata, see below).  However, this is much shorter, and its flowers are reddish-orange (but may be yellow).  Also, its leaves are proportionately broader, diamond-shaped to oblanceolate or spoon-shaped, with the margins upturned at the widest point and a recurved tip.  Leaves may be green, or conspicuously glaucous.

Bluff Lettuce – Dudleya farinosa

Blooms:

May–June

Plant Height:

< 30 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal

Notes:

A smaller plant than Sea Lettuce (Dudleya caespitosa, see above), with pale yellow flowers and grayer leaves.  The leaves are oblong to ovate (not round), up to 6 cm long and may be glaucous (covered in a fine white waxy or powdery coating).  Apart from the plant’s height, both the paler flower color and the grayer, glaucous leaves help to distinguish this species from Sea Lettuce.

Lance-leaved Dudleya – Dudleya lanceolata

Blooms:

July–Aug

Plant Height:

15–95 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Soil or slopes with broken rocks

Notes:

Quite common inland.  Distinguished by its long (5–30 cm) lanceolate leaves and the height of its peduncle. The flowers vary  in color from bright yellow to reddish-orange.