Succulents are known for their unique adaptations to various environments, and some species take this to a whole new level by sporting small hairs on their leaves. These delicate structures, called trichomes, come in different forms, from short and soft to long and slightly harder. While trichomes may seem insignificant, they actually serve a variety of functions in plants.
- The Multifunctional World of Trichomes
- Fuzzy Leaf Succulent Species: A Glimpse into Nature’s Beauty
- Aeonium smithii
- Aichryson laxum
- Aichryson tortuosum
- Cotyledon tomentosa
- Cotyledon tomentosa subs. ladismithiensis
- Crassula barbata
- Crassula namaquensis
- Crassula pubescens
- Crassula rogersii
- Crassula sericea
- Crassula setulosa
- Crassula tecta
- Crassula tomentosa
- Crassula velutina
- Echeveria cv. Bombycina
- Echeveria coccinea
- Echeveria setosa
- Kalanchoe eriophylla
- Kalanchoe tomentosa
- Sedum mocinianum
- Tylecodon leucothrix
The Multifunctional World of Trichomes
The hairs on succulent leaves, much like the wax coating, are part of the plant’s adaptation to its surroundings. They fulfill a range of functions, some even contradictory. Trichomes can help prevent water loss by reducing evaporation from the plant’s surface. They also have the ability to capture water from the dew, ensuring the succulent can thrive in arid conditions.
Additionally, these hairs provide protection against insects, acting as a physical barrier that deters them from feeding on the leaves. Trichomes can also shield the plant from excessive light and adverse weather conditions.
Fuzzy Leaf Succulent Species: A Glimpse into Nature’s Beauty
It’s hard to resist the allure of hairy succulents. Not only are they visually appealing, but they also exhibit fascinating characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at some examples of these attractive species.
Aeonium smithii, also known as Sempervivum smithii, is a perennial deciduous succulent shrublet. It stands at a height of up to 60 cm and boasts unique features that set it apart from other aeoniums. The leaves are spoon-shaped, undulated, and adorned with soft hairs. Their deep green color, along with red stripes on both sides, gives them a velvety and glossy appearance. Aeonium smithii is also known for its prolific blossoms, with flower stalks rising up to 15 cm above the rosettes of leaves. The flowers themselves are yellow, measuring 2.5 cm across and typically sporting 10-12 petals, eighteen stamens, and 10-12 pistils.
Aichryson laxum is a semi-succulent herbaceous plant, usually annual or biennial in nature. Standing at a height of 15-40 cm (sometimes even up to 80 cm), it has green or reddish leaves covered in short, soft hairs. The inflorescence consists of a clustered arrangement of up to 50 star-like yellow flowers. Although it bears a resemblance to Aichryson porphyrogennetos Bolle, it can be distinguished by its hairy, long-petiolate, and blunt leaves, as well as its mid-yellow flowers.
With its tortuous branches, Aichryson tortuosum is a small and highly ornamental perennial shrublet reaching a height of 10-15 cm (or occasionally up to 20 cm). The dense rosettes of fleshy and pubescent (downy) leaves resemble a miniature version of Aeonium lindleyi. The small yellow flowers, typically with seven or eight petals, are arranged in a lax inflorescence. While Aichryson tortuosum exhibits variability, true unhybridized versions are rarely seen in cultivation, much like other members of the Aichryson genus.
Native to Africa, Cotyledon tomentosa, also known as Bear’s Paw or Kitten Paw, is a succulent shrublet that can reach heights of 30-70 centimeters, with a diameter of 30-50 cm. The entire plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers, is covered in down-like hairs, giving it a furry appearance. The leaves are grape- to thumb-sized, feeling soft and fat to the touch, much like the paws of a baby animal. In spring, large orange bell-shaped flowers grace this unique succulent.
Cotyledon tomentosa subs. ladismithiensis
Distinguished from its well-known counterpart, Cotyledon tomentosa subsp. tomentosa, Cotyledon tomentosa subsp. ladismithiensis is a rare perennial succulent shrublet characterized by stronger branches and a potential height of up to 1 meter (including the inflorescence). The leaves of this subspecies are oblong-elliptic or almost cylindrical, typically yellow-green and tomentose, with few sharp apical teeth. Like its relatives, Cotyledon tomentosa subs. ladismithiensis sports a woolly coating of leaves, flowers, and stems.
Crassula barbata, also known as Bearded Leaved Crassula, is an intriguing biennial or annual succulent that forms rosettes and can reach impressive heights when flowering. The leaves of this species are glabrous, but what sets them apart is the characteristic beard along the truncate apex, with long white spreading hairs. In spring, spikes of small white to pinkish flowers emerge, and once the plant has completed its flowering cycle, the rosette will die. Fortunately, it leaves behind basal rosettes that can be detached and grown to continue the cycle.
Crassula namaquensis is a dwarf succulent shrub standing at a height of about 100 mm. Its clustered leaves are oval-shaped, thickly distributed with peculiar hairs, and display a fuzzy, pale blue to blue-green appearance. The plant produces white flowers in a terminal head, adding to its charm. This species is related to Crassula tecta.
Crassula pubescens is a small semi-shrubby perennial succulent that grows in dense groups, reaching heights between 30 and 70 cm. It features deciduous leaves and fragile stems. The plant’s key characteristics include its rounded inflorescence and elongated-elliptic, cream to pale yellow corolla with petal appendages twice as long as they are broad. The pubescence, or hairiness, can vary among different specimens, ranging from very short and thinly scattered to dense and canescent. Crassula pubescens blooms for months during winter and spring, treating the viewer to fragrant white flowers.
Crassula rogersii is a small, much-branched succulent bush that often grows decumbent to erect. Its fleshy red stems give it a distinctive appearance, while the short white hairs covering the club-shaped leaves add a velvety texture. In its natural habitat, Crassula rogersii forms tight cushions that reach heights of 15-30 cm. While the plant remains green in shady areas, it thrives best under plenty of sunlight, causing the leaf tips to turn red. The plant produces tiny star-shaped yellow flowers in clusters from mid-summer to autumn, attracting attention with its beauty. Several hybrids have emerged from this delightful species.
Crassula sericea, specifically var. sericea, is a small perennial succulent subshrub that usually grows up to 20 cm in height. It forms rounded spreading tufts with densely hairy leaves situated at the ends of branches. The leaves are flat, rather blunt, and come with a brown margin. Mature stems may become woody and leafless over time. The petals, adorned with characteristic dorsal appendages, bring a touch of yellow-green beauty. The species exhibits foliage variability, making it easy to confuse with other members of the Crassula genus.
Crassula setulosa is a nearly stemless succulent that gradually forms dense mounds through clustering. This echeveria stands out from the crowd due to its remarkable pubescence, which can vary greatly. Some varieties are almost glabrous, while others display stiff, white hairs that glisten under the light. The offsets produced by this plant allow it to form lush mounds as it grows.
Crassula tecta is a small and attractive perennial succulent species. Its greyish-green, thick leaves, which are covered in ash-colored papillae, resemble the scales of a butterfly’s wing. This echeveria displays a somewhat succulent nature compared to other members of the genus Crassula. While its growth rate may not be particularly fast, it eventually forms low compact clumps, reaching heights of 5 cm and widths of 6 cm. The plant’s inflorescence consists of a head of several white flowers at the end of a peduncle that stands approximately 10 cm tall. Different clones of C. tecta offer distinct appearances.
Also known as woolly crassula, Crassula tomentosa is a perennial succulent that forms small shrubs reaching heights of about 35-45 cm (although it can grow up to 1 meter in the wild). This beautiful plant features dense white felt-like hairs covering its entire leaf surface, contributing to its upright growth and attractive appearance. The water-conserving properties of these hairs are vital in the dry environments where Crassula tomentosa thrives, reducing water vapor loss (transpiration) and insulating the leaves from harsh external conditions.
Crassula sericea var. velutina is a smaller variant, growing to a height of less than 15 cm (including inflorescences). Its growth habit ranges from decumbent to erect with sparing branching. The stems are short, usually under 30 mm in length, and the leaves are larger and possess velvety hairs. The yellow pointed petals of Crassula sericea var. velutina typically lack dorsal appendages.
Echeveria cv. Bombycina
Echeveria cv. Bombycina is a cross between Echeveria setosa and Echeveria pulvinata. This echeveria hybrid is commonly seen and often mislabeled as a true species. It features tighter rosettes and more pronounced fuzziness compared to its relatives, making it a visually pleasing addition to any collection.
Echeveria coccinea, a succulent shrub that tends to branch at the base, initially grows upright before its stems become prostrate and root into the soil, creating a spreading mound. The plant’s soft-pubescent stems contrast with the inside of its flowers. Echeveria coccinea displays variability in both natural habitats and cultivation, with stem and leaf shapes differing depending on the clone and growing conditions.
Echeveria setosa is a slow-growing rosette-succulent that forms dense mounds. This echeveria stands out due to its remarkable pubescence, which can range from almost glabrous to extremely furry, with stiff, glistening white hairs. This plant readily produces offsets from its base, ultimately forming dense mounds that captivate those who encounter it.
Known for its slender tomentose stems, Kalanchoe eriophylla is a visually pleasing succulent native to Madagascar. Its thick, fleshy leaves are covered in a fine layer of whitish hairs, giving it a plump and furry appearance. While the small flowers may not be as vibrant, the overall beauty of this species is undeniable.
Kalanchoe tomentosa, commonly referred to as Panda Plant or Pussy Ears, is a slow-growing perennial succulent that forms an upright small shrub, typically reaching heights of 35-45 cm (though it can grow up to 1 meter in the wild). The dense covering of white felt-like hairs on its leaves contributes to its attractive appearance. This species exhibits polymorphism, with many cultivars featuring color variations. It has earned its charming common names due to the striking resemblance its furry leaves bear to the aforementioned creatures.
Sedum mocinianum is among the most visually appealing sedums. As a perennial mat-forming succulent herb, it features pendent stems that can reach lengths of up to 80 cm. The plant’s little white flowers, each adorned with dark red anthers, grace its presence in winter and spring, making it a welcome sight. The dense covering of white hyaline hairs, measuring about 0.5 mm long, sets Sedum mocinianum apart from other members of its genus. These hairs are present on all parts of the plant, excluding the interior of the flowers.
Tylecodon leucothrix, also known as bunny ears or doubossie, is a succulent shrublet that grows up to 20-30 cm tall from an underground tuber. Its thick succulent leaves are covered in dense white hairs and tend to dry up and drop off during the summer months. The plant produces tubular flowers in summer, which can be white or pinkish. The name “doubossie” may have originated from the way dew collects on the leaf hairs, resembling drops on the leaves.
These fascinating fuzzy leaf succulent species showcase nature’s diversity and adaptability. Their trichomes not only add a touch of uniqueness but also serve crucial purposes like water conservation and protection. As you delve deeper into the world of succulents, don’t miss the chance to appreciate the delicate beauty and rich variety within this remarkable group of plants.