HOUSE-LEEK

HOUSELEEK

Sempervivum tectorum

Stonecrop Family [Crassulaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

status
statusZneophyte
 
flower
flower8mauve flower8purple flower8lilac
 
inner
inner8pink
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ12
(11-13)
type
typeZclustered
 
stem
stem8round
 

5th Aug 2011, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Growing on the dry-stone wall of a garden amidst mosses and Common Polypody.


29th Aug 2008, Pooley Bridge, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Although there are some House-leeks with a net of fine fibres between each point of the leaves (Cobweb Houseleek), these appear to be genuine spiders webs (note that they are also anchored to the stone-work).


29th Aug 2008, Pooley Bridge, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Most of the time the plants are just short rosettes of leaves. They produce offsets on stolens (top right) which slowly grow into larger rosettes.


29th Aug 2008, Pooley Bridge, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The short, curved, semi-succulent leaves are brown where the sharp point begins. The leaves have short bristly teeth. The author thinks the threads are made by a spider rather than this plant being the Cobweb House-leek.


30th June 2009. Photo: © Joy Ahmad
Only after they have been growing several years do they flower, the flowering stalk extending up to 6 inches high.


30th June 2009. Photo: © Joy Ahmad
The flowering stalk is covered in the same type of sharply pointed leaves, but are a little narrower than those in the rosette


30th June 2009. Photo: © Joy Ahmad
The flower buds as yet un-opened. When open, the flowers are a lilac-purple colour, 15-30mm across, and with 12 petals, which is a lot considering it does not belong to the Daisy & Dandelion Family.


30th July 2009, Kinglsey, Cheshire. [poss. var. 'Sundancer'] Photo: © RWD
Possibly var. 'Sundancer' (Jovibara heuffelii), which some taxonomists regard as a sub-genus of the Sempervivum Genus to which House-leeks belong. Jovibara, however, have half the number of petals (6, rather than 12) and the flowers are bell-shaped rather than star-shaped.


30th July 2009, Kinglsey, Cheshire. [poss. var. 'Sundancer'] Photo: © RWD
The richest variety of leaf colour is displayed between March and June. Here there are shades of rich green and 'fluorescent' yellow mixed with vibrant pinks and reds.


30th July 2009, Kinglsey, Cheshire. [poss. var. 'Sundancer'] Photo: © RWD
An offset striking out to spread further afield away from the mad crowd.


30th July 2009, Kinglsey, Cheshire. [poss. var. 'Sundancer'] Photo: © RWD
The points at the end of each leaf are sharp! Some say that they protect roofs from being struck by lightning, but it seems they are just as likely to attract a strike on account of the St. Elmo's Fire that each point would produce when under the intense electrical field of an imminent strike. When your hair stands on end and glows it's time to get out of the (electrical) field!


30th July 2009, Kinglsey, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Edges of leaves are covered in bristle-like hairs.


1st July 2014, garden of a house, Parwich, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flower buds. Hairy reddened sepals, similar in number to that of the petals, surround the expanding bud with hairy pinkish petals getting ready to open.


1st July 2014, garden of a house, Parwich, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Flowers opening at last! About 12 pink-reddish long tapering petals.


1st July 2014, garden of a house, Parwich, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
About twice as many anthers, 24 or so, with yellow anthers.


1st July 2014, garden of a house, Parwich, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
red stamens with yellow anthers surround a similar number of stigmas.


1st July 2014, garden of a house, Parwich, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Stigmas hairy with white tips.


Hybridizes with : other members of the Sempervivum Genus.

Many similarities to : Cobweb Houseleek, but the leaves are covered in a network of what appear to be spiders threads, rather like as in Woolly Thistle.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics (apart from all the hybrids).

Distinguishing Feature : The highly distinctive rosette of shaply-pointed leaves.

No relation to : Leek [a vegetable with similar name].

A perennial plant much more likely to be found growing on or near a garden wall than growing in the wild. It can also be found growing on roofs and quarry faces. This plant is almost always planted (if in the UK).

Like all succulents they can survive drought because the leaves are thick and fleshy, storing water. Living on a dry-stone wall is ideal for House-leeks. They can tolerate frost.

There are about 40 species of Houseleek, and many cross-hybridize with one another making true identification almost impossible. Many cultivated garden varieties exist, and since most are planted, the specimens shown here are more than likely to be garden varieties. Even plants of the same variety are highly variable, some with longer less-rounded leaves, and with a huge variety of colours and shades that varies with the season. They are grown mostly for their spectacular leaves, since many are reluctant to flower until much older. It is rare to find one in flower.

It reproduces mainly by stolons branching out from the main cluster to produce tiny satellites which slowly grow into larger and larger rosettes of leaves. When it flowers (which is not often) the flowers first have a male stage before a hermaphrodite stage. Self-pollination is difficult because the stamens curve away from the carpels at the centre of the flower.

Unusually it has 12 petals, the highest number of any flower other than those belonging to the Daisy & Dandelion (Asteraceae) Family.


  Sempervivum tectorum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Crassulaceae  

Distribution
 family8Stonecrop family8Crassulaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Sempervivum
Sempervivum
(House-Leeks)

HOUSE-LEEK

HOUSELEEK

Sempervivum tectorum

Stonecrop Family [Crassulaceae]

WildFlowerFinder Homepage