Crassula atropurpurea (Haw.) D.Dietr.
Common names: purple crassula (Eng.); persplakkie (Afr.)
Crassula atropurpurea is a small, hardy, succulent plant that is ideally suited to container cultivation.
Crassula atropurpurea is a small, perennial succulent with leaves evenly spaced along erect stems. The leaves are succulent and partially waxy to the touch. The leaves are obovate-linear in shape and are flushed purple especially in summer. The individual creamy yellow flowers are produced on long, flowering spikes.
Distribution and habitat
Crassula atropurpurea has a very wide distribution. It occurs in the east near Oudtshoorn and then west and northwards to southern Namibia. It is used to extreme heat variances (above 40°C) in the summer, but it can survive in relatively low temperatures (-3°C) in the winter.
This plant tends to favour rock habitats. In the Worcester area, Crassula atropurpurea is found growing in rocky crevices in Malmesbury shale. It also occurs under karroid bushes and larger succulents.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The generic name is taken from the Latin word crassus, which means thick or thickening. In many of the crassula species thick leaves are a characteristic of the genus. The specific epithet atropurpurea implies that the leaf has a purplish hue. This is certainly the case during the long, hot summers when the normal, natural green recedes and is replaced with this purplish colour. All plants obtain their energy from the sun. The sun's rays fuel the making of carbohydrates which through a chemical reaction causes photosynthesis to occur in the plant. To adapt to the sun's strong rays especially in summer, the chlorophyll (green colouring) recedes deeper into lower tissues and is replaced with a purplish red, which protects the plant and also conserves energy.
Pollination is done mainly by bees. The flowers are produced normally in early spring.
No real uses or cultural aspects are known.
Growing Crassula atropurpurea
Most crassulas are easily grown from leaf or stem cuttings. During the growing season, mainly April, May, September and October (southern hemisphere), crassula cuttings grow quickly. All that is needed is coarse (1 mm diameter), sieved river sand. Keep moist and keep out of direct sunlight to enable the plant to form roots. Dappled sunlight is ideal. Once the leaves or stem cuttings have rooted, place in a container and harden off before planting outdoors.
Crassula atropurpurea can easily be grown by seed. The seed is very fine, almost like dust. Scatter the seed on a prepared sowing medium. Ensure the top of the medium is relatively coarse. Freshly sieved river sand (1 mm diameter) will do. The sowing time for crassula seed is the same as for striking cuttings.
The seeds will grow quickly and within six months can be planted out. Remember to first harden them off if they are to be planted in direct sunlight.
Crassulas make the most wonderful pot plants. They can also be grown indoors as house plants. Those that make excellent house plants are the glossy leaf varieties. species. Crassulas, given a rich, well-drained medium will grow fast and luxuriantly.
- Rowley, G.D. 2003. Crassula-a grower's guide. Grafica Quadro, Italy.
Karoo Desert NBG
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Northern Cape, Western Cape
Flower colour: Cream
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average