Immortelle: Characteristics, Habitat, Uses And Care

The immortelle ( Sempervivum ) is a genus of succulent plants belonging to the Crassulaceae family, native to North Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The word sempervivum comes from “s emper”  (always) and ” vivum”  (alive), which refers to lively plants all the time.

Among the main species of the genus Sempervivum are: Sempervivum tectorum (major everlasting), Sempervivum arachnoideum (spider everlasting) and Sempervivum calcaratum . As well as: S. ciliosum, S. grandiflorum, S. giusepii, S. hirtum, S. montanum, S. pumilum, S. schlehanii and S. wulfenii .

Most Sempervivum species are small rosette-shaped plants with succulent, pubescent leaves in radial arrangement. The asexual reproduction of this plant favors the formation of a large number of suckers, which cover a significant area around the mother plant.

From each rosette, a long peduncle emerges at the end of which small pink, cream, yellow or white flowers grow. Flowering occurs in the summer, later the plant dies, without ceasing to previously produce abundant lateral suckers.

These plants have a great adaptation to adverse environmental conditions, it is always green, resists extreme cold conditions and inclement solar radiation. The main use of the immortelle is ornamental, however, it has some medicinal properties such as astringent, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and healing.

General characteristics

Morphology

The Sempervivum is a herbaceous perennial plant and stems very short, almost nonexistent, which develops vegetative stolons from the leaf axils. The simple, succulent, smooth or pubescent, narrow, oval monocarpic leaves, sometimes acute at the apex, are arranged in the form of a rosette.

The foliar area presents shades ranging from light green to dark green, intense and bright. The purplish hues at the ends of each leaf are characteristic; some species are yellow, red, or purple.

The cymose inflorescences develop from a slightly hairy 5-20 cm long floriferous stem. The star-shaped flowers are located at the end of the floral stem protected by three bracts in groups of 10-25 units.

The tiny 15-25 cm diameter flowers stand out for the chromatic variety that covers the range of red, pink, yellow and white. Flowering occurs in late spring, throughout summer, even into mid-fall.

Composition

In chemical analysis of Sempervivum it has allowed to determine the presence of malic acid, formic acid and calcium malate, as well as significant amounts of mucilage, resins and tannins.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Subkingdom: Tracheobionta

Division: Magnoliophyta

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Saxifragales

Family: Crassulaceae

Subfamily: Sempervivoideae

Genus:  Sempervivum L., Sp. Pl. 1: 464 (1753).

Distribution and habitat

The diverse variety of evergreen species is native to the area around the Mediterranean, from the region of North Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands.

In Europe it is common to observe it from the Alps to the Balkans, in the Carpathians, the Caucasus, the mountains of Armenia, and in Turkey. In the Iberian Peninsula some species are endemic to the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra de Baza.

Evergreens are succulent plants that have the ability to store water, which facilitates their development on rocky and sunny surfaces. They are located in the supramediterranean and oromediterranean bioclimatic floors, at an altitude level between 1,200 and 2,200 meters above sea level.

As an ornament it can be grown in pots, since it is easily multiplied through suckers. It is a plant that does not require special care, prefers limestone soils, well drained and effective sun exposure.

This plant blooms from June to July, in fact, the evergreen shows vegetative growth for several years before blooming. Flowering is favored by the summer climate, that is, when temperatures increase and a warm climate occurs.

Applications

Medicinal

The medicinal properties of the immortelle have been exploited since ancient times. There is evidence that the plant was used to relieve burns, calluses, and hemorrhoid problems.

In the form of a poultice, it is used to clean wounds and reduce inflammation, and it is also applied in the treatment of ulcers and gangrene. The infusions have astringent and refreshing properties, the nectar of the leaves is useful for eye conditions.

As an astringent, antiseptic and diuretic plant, it is indicated to alleviate problems related to fluid retention, cystitis, enterocolitis, urolithiasis or nephrolithiasis, and pharyngitis. As a traditional remedy, it is used to relieve abdominal or pelvic pain, and menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea.

Nutritional

In some regions, the young shoots are used as an ingredient and a dressing for salads or other culinary recipes. Due to their succulent nature, the leaves are a source of liquids to quench thirst.

Protection

A particular use that has been given to this plant is to cover and strengthen earthen roofs in rural areas. In other times it was assumed that the vegetal mantle that covered the roofs of houses protected its inhabitants from lightning.

Ornamental

At present its main use is at an ornamental level, so it is grown for decorative purposes, both in pots and in gardening. The leaves grouped in a rosette shape of different textures and colors offer an eye-catching coloring in parks and gardens.

Care

The evergreen plant can be located outdoors on rocky beds and around walkways, or indoors in wide, low pots. It is a plant that needs to be exposed to solar radiation and adapts to low temperature and low humidity conditions.

Most of the Sempervivum species are not demanding in soil, it is enough that it is loose, porous and of good drainage. They do not require a special type of fertilization, only that in pots it is advisable to renew the soil every two years.

Irrigation should be moderate, providing that the plant is resistant to drought. In pots, it is recommended to add sand to the black soil to avoid waterlogging.

If the cultivation of evergreens is developed in optimal environmental conditions, the plants are not prone to being attacked by pests or diseases. The best time to transplant is early spring, when temperatures are milder.

References

  1. Casas, FJF (1981). Notes on the genus »Sempervivum» L. In Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 526-528). Royal Botanical Garden.
  2. Guillot Ortiz D., Laguna Lumbreras E., & Rosselló, JA (2009). The Crassulaceae family in the Valencian non-native flora. Monographs of the magazine Bouteloua, (Vol Nº 4) 106 pp. ISBN e-book: 978-84-937291-1-0
  3. Kreuter Marie-Luise (2005) Biological Garden and Orchard. Editorial Mundiprensa. 348 pp.
  4. Sempervivum (2018) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Recovered at: wikipedia.org
  5. Peñalba José Luis (2015) Siempreviva. 2 pp.
  6. Portillo Germán (2018) Everlasting plant (Sempervivum). Recovered in: jardineriaon.com

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