Common name: Broadleaf Stonecrop
Sedum spathulifolium is an evergreen perennial herb native to western North America from British Columbia to southern California. It occurs in many forms throughout its range. S. spathulifolium thrives where conditions seem poor. It can be found in cliffs and bluffs, at forest openings, and on rocky outcrops from low to mid elevations.
S. spathulifolium blooms from May to July in British Columbia. The flowers are five-petalled, star-shaped, and bright yellow. They attract and provide nectar to bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators. It is a food source for native butterfly and moth larvae. Broadleaf stonecrop has fleshy, spade-shaped leaves which grow in tight rosettes. The leaves are green but can have red or purple around the edges if in full sun. They often look powdery or waxy. S. spathulifolium leaves store water to survive drought. The plant needs little care once established. It can be ignored and still grow well and is a good plant for rock gardens and xeriscape.
First Nations people used S. spathulifolium in various ways. In the last month of pregnancy, women chewed the leaves to ease childbirth. The plant was also boiled, and the liquid was used to calm cranky babies and to relieve constipation. The succulent leaves were valued for their water content and were eaten on journeys. The young stems and leaves can be eaten raw, but too much can cause stomach upsets.
S. spathulifolium was described in 1832 by William Jackson Hooker, an English botanist and botanical illustrator, who became the first director of Kew. The specific epithet refers to the spade-shaped leaves. S. spathulifolium is known as 'livelong' because long after being harvested, the foliage remains green.
Sedum spathulifolium can be found in the Canadian Heritage Garden near the medicinal plant collection and in a few other areas of the garden.
Text and photos by Kumi Sutcliffe