There are over 1500 species in the sedum family worldwide. Most, but not all, occur in the more temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Sedums are characterized by thick, succulent leaves that, much like cacti, absorb and store moisture, releasing it during times of drought. Generally sedums prefer dry, rocky areas. Many members of this family are cultivated and adorn gardens, i.e. hen-and-chicks.
One sedum, native to and found in the western Pacific states from British Columbia to California is broad-leaved stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium). A perennial that remains green throughout the year at higher altitudes, broad-leaved stonecrop has alternate, spoon-shaped, flattened, fleshy leaves crowded into a rosette. These sage-green leaves turn reddish in the full sun and are often glaucous (covered in a white powder). The bright yellow flowers cluster at the top of a fleshy, leafy red stem that arises from the center of the leaf rosette. Five entirely separate, lance-shaped petals form the flower. The seeds are contained in five-segmented follicles that join at the base and spread at the tops. The plant propagates by runners or rhizomes.
Also known as Pacific sedum, the entire broad-leaved stonecrop plant is edible, but tastes best before the flowers appear. Crisp, with a flavor that is maybe a little like a cucumber, the leaves are good in salads or as a trail snack. I never ate or did anything with the flowers, but can recommend the leaves. Since it stays green throughout the year S. spathulifolium can be used as a survival food in the winter.
Native Americns employed a leaf poultice as a styptic (checks bleeding). Songish women chewed the leaves in the ninth month of pregnancy to ease childbirth. I have no idea if that works.
The word stonecrop derives from the Old English “stancrop” which means “what is cut off stone” – logical since stonecrop grows in rocky areas. Alternatively, “crop” can mean “a bunch of flowers” and perhaps refers to the flower cluster of this plant. The scientific name also is descriptive. The genus name, Sedum, is Latin for “to sit” while the species, spathulifolium, translates as “spoon-shaped leaves”, both of which refer to the plant’s leaves.
I took these pictures along the North Umpqua Trail (Oregon) where broad-leafed stonecrop grows in profusion on the rocky outcrops next to the Umpqua River. Unfortunately when I was there the flowers were mature and lacking petals. However, the young seed follicles are easily seen. Even past its prime, stonecrop is beautiful.
Another of my favorite wildflowers! I have so many!