You are on page 1of 23

Succulent plants from down under Adventive Plants (Part 9):

Crassula coccinea Intermezzo: a new erratum Aloe arborescens Notes on Aeonium

Rangitoto (II)

XXI. Crassula coccinea

Crassula coccinea Linnaeus 1753 - synonyms are Rochea coccinea (Linnaeus) De Candolle and
Rochea odoratissima (Andrew) Link - used to be one of the glories of the New Zealand cottage
gardens only until few decades back; it has gone out of fashion since and today even in Aucklands
old residential area gardens there are slim chances to see one. But there is still a place where it
thrives in the wild Rangitoto Island. I wrote few words about this plant in Part 7 of this series, but I
think it is time for more details on the naturalization of this amazing plant.

1. A young Crassula coccinea

stem emerging from an almost
dead plant. This vegetative
regeneration is probably
the most common selfpropagation on Rangitoto. The
photo was taken at Yankee

Crassula coccinea is an erect and almost glabrous sub-shrub to 50 cm high, with initially succulent
stems up to 13 mm thick, becoming woody with age. The leaves are succulent, sessile and in four
ranks, strongly imbricate and scarcely aggregated toward the apex of the stems, 20 30 x 13 17
mm, elliptic or ovate-oblong, almost flat, green coloured, without hydathodes and with obtuse apex.
The thyrse is to 8 cm across; the flowers are 5-merous to 20 24 mm diameter and up to 25 in a
thyrse. The lobes are lanceolate with ciliolate margins; corolla is 40 47 mm long and not star-like
shaped, tube is 30 35 mm long whitish at the base and pink above, the 5 lobes are 10 12 mm
long, ovate-oblong to elliptic-oblong, crimson and becoming recurved. Seeds have not been observed
in New Zealand plants.
As most of the Crassula species it originates from South Africa, Western Cape. Although it prefers
the proximity of coastal areas it is not an actual sea shore plant as it grows high in the mountains,

Page 1

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

usually at about 800 m altitude and above. A reference location for Crassula coccinea is Table
Mountain, where it grows together with other bright red flowering plants like Disa uniflora, Disa
ferruginea, Nerine sarniensis or Tritoniopsis triticea, all being pollinated by the same endemic
butterfly - Meneris tulbaghia, which shows a peculiar preference for red flowering plants (Ernst van
Jaarsveld & Liesl van der Walt, 2001).

2. The wonderful thyrse of

Crassula coccinea.
bright red colour is hard to
capture on camera. The photo
was taken at Yankee Wharf

3. Crassula coccinea and

Crassula multicava plantlets
near an old cultivation site
close to Rangitoto wharf in the
southern part of the island.

Page 2

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

In its natural habitat Crassula coccinea prefers steep slopes of quartzitic sandstone or bare rocks
where it forms small succulent subshrubs, more or less branching from the base (1). The plant itself is
somewhat non-descriptive, with dull stems turning woody and brown as they grow (2) and retaining
the shriveled rests of the dead leaves, very persistent and untidy looking, and with the new imbricate
green leaves at the end of the stems. But what a show in mid-summer when it gets to flower! First
thing you notice is the colour (very striking especially in full sun) a bright red of a kind you have
never seen before! The tubular flowers are quite big for a Crassula and slightly fragrant as well so
that they deliver an incredible package for such a dull plant. The bright red colour is however not the
result of pigmentation but of a peculiar cellular structure - Rudolph Marloth (in Flora of South
Africa, 1913 1932): "This dazzling brightness of the flower is principally due to the dome-shaped
form of the epidermal cells, each acting like a combination of a convex lens with a concave

4. Cultivated plant in my rock garden.

Crassula coccinea has been first collected in Rangitoto Island by W.R. Sykes in September 1982 and
subsequently published by C. J. Webb, W. R. Sykes & P. J. Garnock-Jones in Flora of New Zealand,
Vol. 4, 1988 and by D.R. Given in his 1984 Checklist of naturalized plants. It has been also recorded
in Canterbury since (D.J. Mahon, 2007).

Page 3

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

In Rangitoto Crassula coccinea is a typical garden escape, mostly very persistent in or around the
abandoned gardens of the former baches (still thriving in some places) but is has also migrated on
grounds altered by human activities (i.e. at Yankee Wharf, where roads building and quarrying have
scattered finer particles in the area favouring the development of different vegetation patterns)
sometimes few hundred meters from the original locations. It is very common on the north-eastern
(Gardiners Gap, Islington Bay) and eastern (Yankee Wharf) coasts of Rangitoto, also very common
in few spots along the southern stretch of the Islington Bay Road, not too far from the Rangitoto
Wharf, but it doesnt form anywhere strong populations. However, you cant miss it in high summer
youll see the bright red inflorescences from the distance, scattered on the black lava blocks.

5. Cultivated plant in my rock

variegation. It must have been a
viral condition as this variegation
has appeared at two neighboring
plants, never to appear next year.

In most of the locations where I have seen it here the soil is virtually absent, and the plants have to
take full advantage of every fissure or small crevice of the basaltic lava blocks. It may be a similar
type of substrate but as a whole, its original habitat is rather different I think. At least at 800 m
altitude it is lacking in marine exposure. For a change in Rangitoto it faces the sea. At Islington
Bay and at Yankee Wharf the plants come quite close to the waterline and even if the shallow waters
of the narrow channel between Motutapu and Rangitoto islands do not become exactly a raging sea
even on stormy weather, salt laden mist is quite common. In the southern parts few miles of open sea
allows probably for even higher exposure especially when strong southerlies batter the shores.
However, as many other South African succulent plants originating from coastal areas or fynbos,
Crassula coccinea has managed to adapt perfectly here. I have no idea about the whereabouts of this
plant in Canterbury, but I can only assume that here as well there are good chances of following the
same distribution patterns as most of the similar plants the coastal areas. However, a common
feature with its original habitat is the mild and humid winter, very important as it is a winter grower.
Although well settled in several corners of the island there are not too many plants, at least I havent
seen more than casual scattered plants here and there. It seems that there was no seed dispersal here;

Page 4

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

at least the low number of young plants suggests this. More, in several instances the young plants
were emerging from remainders of old or apparently dead plants which indicate rather the vegetative
dispersal, and rather localized I would say. However, for any dispersal and in some corners like
Yankee Wharf theres quite a stretch to the nearest bach - there must be a vector, but unfortunately I
dont have a clear explanation in this case.

6. A small group of Crassula coccinea established quite off the old cultivation site close to Rangitoto
wharf in the southern part of the island. Of course Crassula multicava plantlets are also present.

It is true that Crassula coccinea is a typical garden relict; it is also true that in most of the cases the
plants grew within the boundaries of former properties or gardens; it is also very well known how
persistent and self-maintaining patches of old vegetation can be. But there is no satisfactory
explanation in the absence of seed of how this plant could travel few hundred meters from its
original location in Islington Bay to the succulent corner south of Yankee Wharf. There are no easily
detachable parts (branches, leaves) which could be for example easily blown by wind; I can accept
this explanation for the tiny plantlets spread by Crassula multicava or for the small succulent leaves
of Crassula tetragona ssp. robusta (3) but not for the strong branches of Crassula coccinea, heavy
enough not to be blown away on long distances very easily.

Page 5

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

It also appears that the growth rate of the Rangitoto naturalized plants is much reduced compared to
cultivated plants. It is said that it can flower in one year even from seed, if cuttings are taken it never
fails to flower the following summer, at least for me. Observing the small plants, the side offsets,
etc., my feeling is that it can take 2 or even 3 years until they get to flower. But this would make
sense in such a hostile environment.
However, it is a very nice addition to the adventive succulent flora of Rangitoto Island, not too
invasive and easy to control, which is very important for conservation matters in such iconic natural

XXII. Intermezzo: a new erratum

There is something I have learned over the last few years since I have jumped into succulent plants
naturalization in New Zealand it takes sometimes a lot of time to understand things and how they
work, to get around with all the literature and accounts published over the years or simply you
develop in time different views. Fact is that there were (and still are) few white spots on the map for
me and I might have even stabbed in the dark few times. Therefore I have decided now (April 2010)
to fix some other blurts from the past. And here we go again:


The true number of naturalized plants.

In the opening chapter of Part 1 I wrote:

A number of 615 alien plants were recorded from 1840 until 1985 (Esler &
Astridge, 1987) and even though some of the recorded species were just
casuals or occurring just rarely and were not found again in later
assessments, the actual number of the adventive plants recorded until now
must be well over 700.

And further down in my note no. 2:

Esler & Astridge (1987) are considering that the naturalization rate of one
new species at 88 days (or 4.12 species per year) was maintained over the
years; if so, this will add about 90 new species between 1985 and 2007. In
my opinion, as the greatest pressure in our days comes from horticulture
(at no time in New Zealands history the number of species and hybrids on
offer at Garden Centers was greater, at no time there was such a
residential boom), it is quite possible that we have passed by now the 750
or even 800 mark. Other sources are mentioning 2,200 2,500 adventive
species (this would mean half of the total plant species growing in New
Zealand) but () I think the numbers are highly overrated and/or may
include all sorts of casuals with no chance of long-term survival.

I have done two major mistakes here. First of all Esler & Astridge (1987) wrote in their paper about
Greater Auckland and not New Zealand, which I have failed to observe at that time in my notes
(bugger!) compiled from various sources, including this account. I wasnt excelling in good quality
research I guess, thats a thing that I have learned in time. However, I wrote this probably in October

Page 6

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

2007 (when I started this series) being concerned about the true meaning of the word naturalization
only later in January or February 2008 while working on Part 2 (and this was my second mistake).
As I already stated before I was on a steep learning curve and apparently things werent too clear
for me at that time.
My point is that adventive plants do not consist only of naturalized and casual as defined in Part 2
but I would rather extract the persistent cultivation relics and the spontaneous occurrences from the
later as self-standing categories. There is no doubt that some of the advanced figures of up to 2,500
plants refer not only to naturalized plants but includes the casual, spontaneous occurrences and
persistent cultivation relics as well and are possibly over-rated as spontaneous growth may occur,
may be recorded only to disappear for good in that particular area. At this point in time I will not
advance any numbers, but definitely will look into this.


The Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum distribution.

In Part 2 (chapter IV The Sedum group) I wrote:

[Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum] is an alpine plant though, reportedly
occurring just in the southern third of the North Island and all over the
Southern Island and even enjoying the sub-polar influences of the far

This was October November 2007. At that time I was relying mainly on the 1984 David R. Given
Checklist (which indicated in the North Island just Palmerston North, Bunnythorpe and Wellington)
and havent seen this plant in Rangitoto yet. On the other hand a quite rare article (not available on
the internet), namely W.R. Sykes 1992 Succulent Plants on Rangitoto Island (published in
Auckland Botanical Society Journal), wasnt consulted yet at that time. Truth is that Sedum
praealtum ssp. praealtum does very well in the cooler South Island, but it also managed to establish
in Rangitoto, which is quite remarkable in fact. Also, it happened that I first saw Sedum praealtum
ssp. praealtum in Rangitoto only in January 2008.


The presence of Aeonium arboreum on Rangitoto.

In Part 4, chapter X. A brief overview of the adventive succulent flora of Rangitoto Island I wrote:
I will start with a plant having an uncertain status Aeonium arboreum
[Webb & Berthelot [Morocco]; it is unknown if this plant has been actually
seen on Rangitoto or anywhere else in New Zealand although there are a few
references. Apparently it was Healys confusion in 1959 (reportedly he
confused Aeonium cf. ciliatum for Aeonium arboreum), many have referred him
later, but when his error has been discovered years later all authors tend
now to link any reference of Aeonium arboreum to this error, which might
be of course not true. However, little is actually known other than this
plant is a doubtful occurrence.

Again W.R. Sykes Succulent Plants on Rangitoto Island has provided me with very good
information, unfortunately too late. The Rangitoto record of A. arboreum (L.) Webb et Berth. in

Page 7

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

Webb et al. (1988) (4) is erroneous, being based on a specimen of A. undulatum (Gardner S249,
Islington, 18 Jul. 1987, AK). I dont know if C.J. Webb has been tricked in by A.J. Healys 1959
misidentification, however, he was wrong about the presence of Aeonium arboreum on Rangitoto.
More, W.R. Sykes himself was co-author of Flora of New Zealand Vol 4. (1988) freely available
nowadays as internet resource - but didnt clarify the matter until his 1992 account.


Omitted Rangitoto adventive succulent plants.

On several occasions I have complained about the lack of information in relevant botanical literature
(such as the many Checklists for naturalized plants) considering that only by going out in the field
and browsing areas of interest you can get a true picture. On several occasions and my references
regarding Aloe arborescens and Aeonium haworthii on Rangitoto are possibly the best examples botanists have failed to observe some species in natural environments. In some instances I still think
I was right, in some other well, it is obvious that botanists have had their omissions and so had I.
Fact is that most botanical accounts (such as the references in the Checklists of naturalized plants)
are based on herbarium collections. Even if you consult the electronic version of Flora of New
Zealand and want to check the dispersal of a certain species you will have a short general description
of the distribution area with few relevant localities and possibly a map showing the locations
herbarium collections were made from; in some instances there is not a perfect match between the
two, in some other instances it is even very clear that there is definitely a lack of information and
the best example would be the Cotyledon orbiculata seen by me in two sub-populations in Piha. If
Anawhata is mentioned, I would also expect the more iconic Piha to be referred as well for this
matter. Not to speak of Rangitoto where applicable.
However, in some of the cases the information was there (even if not properly acknowledged in the
botanical literature) I have recently managed to get a copy of a very interesting article, referred by
some authors, but which had never the circulation it should have deserved: W.R. Sykes - Succulent
Plants on Rangitoto Island (published in Auckland Botanical Society Journal in 1992). I have only
recently found this article in the Alfriston Botanic Gardens library. Ironically, I am a constant visitor
of the gardens and I pop in every now and then in the library to make some research if other
resources (especially internet, my personal electronic library or the few books I have) fail to provide
the needed information, but sadly I have missed this article for a very long time
Ironically W.R. Sykes shares the same concern: naturalized plants are only superficially studied,
even in unique and therefore highly important habitats such as Rangitoto. However, in and around
these settlements the resulting community is especially rich in Crassulaceae and, although most of
them also occur elsewhere in New Zealand, the combination of species and the frequency of some of
them is unique to Rangitoto. This uniqueness is a reflection of the combination of climate and the
unusual geological structure of the island. Little attention has been paid to them botanically
however, although many records are scattered through the pages of Webb, Sykes & Garnock-Jones
(1988). The aim of this account is to remedy this defect.
Long story short this article brings some additions to my list of adventive succulents on Rangitoto
(Part 4, chapter X.), mainly a handful of omitted true succulent species, but also several species
displaying a marginal succulent habit I would have never considered at that time (5). And here we
Page 8

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

- Agavaceae:

Agave americana Linnaeus 1753 Variegata, the variegated form originating from Mexico
and USA of which W.R. Sykes maintains to have seen it growing next to uniformly greenleaved plants, which is a real surprise for me. I havent seen any and I highly doubt that there
are anymore variegated plants growing on the island. We know that nowadays the Agave
colony is periodically checked which wasnt the case back in the late 80s and early 90s as
although not seen in flower, the old dead inflorescences were 4 5 metres high. I put some
effort in studying the Islington Bay colony and I can certify that there were no variegated
plants there. I also havent seen any plants (variegated or not) near Rangitoto wharf which is
indicated as a second locality or near Wilsons Park at the crater rim a real surprisingly
location. Being massive plants I think that it was merely possible to stay under the radar of
the environmental bodies, especially if some quick and highly visible impact of the
vegetation control program is wanted. I would rather suggest that due to intense vegetation
control over the last few years the variegated form has been eradicated.

Yucca recurvifolia Salisbury 1807 (also referred as Yucca gloriosa var. recurvifolia
(Salisbury) Engelmann 1873) is indigenous to coastal areas of the south-eastern USA and
was mentioned as occasional growing as relics of cultivation on old garden sites near
Islington and Rangitoto wharf.

- Aizoaceae:

Lampranthus sp. (not fully indentified) indigenous to South Africa, unfortunately no location
is given.

- Asphodelaceae:

Aloe arborescens (Linnaeus) Miller 1768 is indigenous to southern regions of Africa. I

became aware of the presence of this plant here (it was quite a surprise actually!) well after I
wrote Part 4, so that it belongs to this list. W.R. Sykes indicates Islington, Rangitoto wharf
and surprisingly Wilsons Park at base of crater one. The plants I have seen were located
near Yankee Wharf which is south of Islington Bay wharf, well away from former bach sites.
I still dont know how the plants got there and it somewhat contradicts W.R. Sykes who
maintains that the plants are thriving and flowering freely but cannot be considered
adventive because they have not reproduced themselves because of the remote location. It is
still a mystery to me how Aloe arborescens got there.

Aloe ciliaris Haworth 1825 is another South African native which surprisingly pops up in
Islington. One straggling plant on an old garden site notes W.R. Sykes (I wonder if
struggling wouldnt have been a more adequate word to use). Collected by W.R. Sykes in
December 1989 is possibly gone extinct by now.

Page 9

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

- Asteraceae:

Senecio angulatus Linnaeus f. 1782 is a South African native plant with sub-succulent leaves
which forms a few patches around old house sites in Islington. It may not form viable seed
as no seedlings or young plants were seen. However, it is considered a problem weed in
New Zealand it is also blacklisted by Wotherspoon & Wotherspoon (2003), which I failed
to observe.

- Araceae:

Alocasia brisbanensis (Bailey) Domin 1915 from Australia is recorded by W.R. Sykes in
Wilsons Park, at the base of the crater cone, just few plants. I vaguely remember seeing this
plant (but without being able to locate exactly where on the island); however, unfortunately I
didnt take any picture of his rather non-interesting (for me at least) sub-succulent plant with
a rather nice vernacular name Elephants Ear. During my only foray to date through
Wilsons Park I was quite on a tight schedule and honestly it also didnt match my
expectations for the site of an intended botanic garden. W.R. Sykes also notes that this
species has been also confused in New Zealand botanical areas with Alocasia macrorrhizos, a
Polynesian species.

Colocasia esculenta (Linnaeus) Schott 1832 is indigenous to the Indo-Malaysian region.

W.R. Sykes mentions again few patches growing in Wilsons Park. I dont know the plant and
theres no wonder if I would have considered it to be native.

Zantedeschia aethiopica (Linnaeus) Sprengel 1826 is a South African plant I wouldnt even
consider a typical succulent. However, W.R. Sykes mentions two locations the Western
End (McKenzie Bay) and again Wilsons Park at the base of crater cone a large stand
densely covering many square meters of the rough lava surface beneath pohutukawa hybrids
(Metrosideros excelsa x Metrosideros robusta). I know very well this plant (how couldnt I
as in most of Aucklands old fashioned cottage gardens is still placed in privileged spots) but
have to admit that I havent noticed its presence. Being blacklisted (Zero Control, Priority
Class 3 see Wotherspoon & Wotherspoon 2003) Im sure that it isnt thriving.

- Balsaminaceae:

Impatiens sodenii Engler & Warburg ex Engler 1894, a plant from tropical East Africa being
seen by W.R. Sykes in Islington and Rangitoto wharf. In a few places around or near old
house sites, one eminent instance being a small quarry where there were many plants. The
species generates freely from seed on Rangitoto. It is also listed in Wotherspoon &
Wotherspoon (2003), and again I have failed to observe.

- Commelinaceae:

Tradescantia cerinthoides Kunth 1843 indigenous to northern Argentina and southern Brazil
(referred in New Zealand mostly as Tradescantia blossfeldiana), and is a sub-succulent plant

Page 10

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

with trailing stems seen only in Islington a small patch near an old house site. W.R. Sykess
article is the first report showing this plant as adventive in Rangitoto.

Tradescantia fluminensis J. M. Vellozo 1829 I have also omitted this South American
trailing plant with succulent stems (not mentioned by W.R. Sykes at all) although I have
included it in my 2005 and 2007 Romanian articles on succulent adventive plants (Zimer
2005b, Zimer 2007b) which shows actually some inconsistency from my side. This is an
extremely invasive plant which can cause a lot of trouble and inconvenience (to put it mildly)
when you are all set to control it. But for the delight of the conservation personnel this plant
was eradicated from Rangitoto by 2006, which is a real achievement. The Wandering Jew is a
problem weed in Northland.

7. A severe infestation
Karangahape Gorge.

- Crassulaceae:

Bryophyllum aliciae (Hamet) A. Berger 1930 a Madagascar plant not known to be

adventive anywhere else in New Zealand. Islington. On an old house site where it persists
as a relic of cultivation.

Crassula decumbens C.P. Thunberg 1794 is a small South African and Australian plant
observed near Rangitoto wharf where it grows on open lava field near coastal track and
was sometimes confused with the similar native Crassula sieberiana which is also present in
Rangitoto, around Rangitoto wharf.

Page 11

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

- Geraminaceae:

Pelargonium x asperum Willdenow 1800 an age-old garden hybrid of South African parents
(Palargonium graveolens Aiton x pelargonium radens H. Moore) mentioned at Islington
and Rangitoto wharf. Around a number of old house sites where it regenerates in the vicinity
of the original plants.

Pelargonium x domesticum L. Bailey 1916, a garden hybrid, occurs again in Islington and
Rangitoto wharf. Old house surrounds on lava banks and lava walls, and occasionally in
nearby shrub. Present in several places and is sometimes adventive to a minor extent. W.R.
Sykes also mentions that this hybrid is the very common cultivar adventive in some other
North Island locations which has single rosy purple flowers with dark purple blotch. It is a
complex hybrid with at least three species involved, the Rangitoto plants displaying more
characters of P. cucullatum (L.) Aiton. However, the parentage of this plant is incompletely

Pelargonium peltatum (Linnaeus) C.L. L'Hritier 1789 is indigenous to South Africa. It used
to be very common in cultivation and has been recorded in Islington, very few plants in
scrub near old house site. W.R. Sykes considers that it is actually a cultivar with double
pinkish-mauve flowers rather than the true species.

- Orchidaceae:

Epidendrum cinnabarinum P. Salzmann ex Lindley 1831, is a terrestrial reed-stemmed

Epidendrum discovered by Philipp Salzmann in Bahia (Brazil) and is probably just another
cultivation relict which is very unlikely to make it through the years a single, large,
tangled mat on lava pinnacle around an old house site in Islington was noted by W.R.
Sykes, who reckons it is the true species indeed and not one of the widespread popular

As you can see that was quite a list


The Sedum paealtum ssp. praealtum flower.

In Part 7 in the chapter dedicated to the magnificent succulent corner from Yankee Wharf
(Rangitoto Island) I wrote:
We have seen several times this plant during past trips in Rangitoto, but
none of them was flowering. I actually have no idea how the flower looks
like and it seems to be a rather shy flowerer.

In fact at the time I wrote this (just one or two days before my fourth visit to Rangitoto) it was
completely true I havent seen flowering Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum. But while browsing
days later in the Islington Bay area we have seen and photographed few flowering plants. A
Rangitoto trip is always overwhelming and I need usually to spend few days to put some notes
together before I forget some of the details, to sort and (sometime) identify all the plants in the
pictures (well, you may have guessed - its not only succulent flora Im interested in). Unfortunately

Page 12

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

it took a bit longer than usual this time (as I write this in May 2010 I havent finished the job yet)
and more, it looks like that the marvelous flowering Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum I have seen has
simply slipped my mind. Unfortunately we were quite in a hurry not to miss the evening ferry, I
rushed taking few pictures and off we went towards the southern wharf. Part 7 went out on my
website without any change to the text before I have even checked and sorted the pictures taken
then, more, a stand-alone version of this chapter (6) was already in print in New Zealand Cactus and
Succulent Journal at the time I realized the stammering. I take my time now to make this correction.
On the other hand Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum seems to be a shy flowerer indeed, at least here I
was right.

8. A flowering Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum, one of the pictures (and

plants) I simply forgot about until I have sorted all the pictures taken in
August 2009 on Rangitoto Island. This picture is from Islington Bay.

XXIII. Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens (Linnaeus) Miller 1768 is another old-time favourite of New Zealand gardeners,
still very common in Auckland, especially in the gardens of the old residential areas. But, as many
other plants, it has gone out of fashion in the last decades, being replaced in the years of the

Page 13

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

succulent mania (70s and 80s here in New Zealand) by new introductions. However, it had a long
cultivation history in Auckland and in other regions of New Zealand and I was very surprised to
learn by the mid 2000s that there was no record of adventive specimens in our natural habitats. I
was in fact pretty sure that two of the (to me) obvious omissions Aloe arborescens and Crassula
ovata have to be somewhere out in the wild (7).

9. Aloe arborescens a
cultivation relict from

10. Aloe arborescens a

cultivation relict from
(Auckland). While the
above (picture taken in
March 2005) still exists,
this one has been removed
since photographed (July

Page 14

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

I was aware of few garden relicts in Auckland area but beside their persistence these were not really
self-maintained populations, and by being within reach of human intervention at any time not
entitled to at least an adventive status. Aloe arborescens is in fact a very static plant, unable to
disperse without human assistance. It does not form seed (8), it does not propagate from leaves, and if
controlled it just only regenerates from rootstocks (relatively easy if not the entire root system has
been dug out properly) or from stem fragments or cuttings this does not support pioneer expansion
at all.
Aloe arborescens is a multi-branched leaf succulent shrub forming relatively large apical and
somewhat obliquely disposed rosettes, consisting of curved, dull grayish to bluish green leaves with
toothed margins. The leaves are narrow and reach usually a length of 50 60 cm; their teeth can be
whitish or can have the same colour as the leaves. Old dry leaves are usually not persistent, except
just below the rosettes. It usually branches from the base forming in time large mounds; in some
cases the plants tend to lie on the ground with the tips turned upwards, in other cases the stems are
really entangled and support each other. Unbranched inflorescences with (usually) scarlet, but also far less common - orange and yellow flowers appear profusely during the winter months. It is a fast
growing plant but despite of the sustained mass growth in deep rich soil if unchecked it rarely
reaches 3 m height. . Aloe arborescens occurs on vast areas of southern Africa from South Africa
(Cape Peninsula, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Province) to Swaziland, Mozambique,
Zimbabwe and Malawi. It has the third widest distribution of all Aloes and is exceptionally common.
Only in Zimbabwe it is a protected plant. In their natural habitat they often prefer rocky grassland,
cliff faces and rocky outcrops, deep valleys and densely vegetated steeps of the afromontane forests
in medium to rather high rainfall areas (630 1,500 mm / year), from sea level to medium elevations
(up to 1,800 m above sea level) mostly following the coastal regions. It is therefore not exactly a
desert or semi-desert plant, but accepts a fair seasonal draught. They can take pretty much anything
between full sun and semi-shade.
Aloe arborescens has been naturalized in many countries, including New Zealand, but despite its
cultivation success and persistence in abandoned gardens Aloe arborescens is just a casual
appearance in our wild environments.
In New Zealand Aloe arborescens was recorded for the first time by Wilson in 1999, but there is no
substantiating specimen to support this (D.J. Mahon, 2007). C.C. Ogle refers Aloe arborescens in
2005 which is again mentioned in D.J. Mahons Canterbury Checklist (2007). However, its presence
on Rangitoto was already mentioned in 1992 by W.R. Sykes and despite publishing his account
(backed up by three collections between 1989 and 1991) in a reputable publication remained largely
unknown for the public and some of the botanists alike. You can imagine the big surprise I had
when I saw this plant for the first time through my binoculars at Yankee Wharf, on the eastern coast
of Rangitoto Island as at that time I also have not read W.R. Sykes article. He mentions Aloe
arborescens around old houses in Rangitoto wharf and Islington Bay and remarkably in Wilsons
Park at the base of the crater cone. Very strange, I have failed to observe the plant in all these
locations, but saw it south of Yankee Wharf, quite far from any former bach site - a couple of well
established individuals, showing again rather very simplified growth forms, quite different from the
arborescent growth (hence the name) we can usually see in cultivated plants. And again Im a bit
clueless about how these plants could get here and propagate. The substrate the two plants were
growing on was the same old lava block as any other plant here, quite different from the deep soil

Page 15

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

this species enjoys in our gardens. Nevertheless they were also a proof on how much these plants
could endure.

11. Aloe arborescens

two Yankee Wharf plants
(Rangitoto) surrounded by
praecox ssp. orientalis

12. Aloe arborescens

another Yankee Wharf
plant (Rangitoto) with
suckers. Sedum praealtum
ssp. praealtum is visible
Metrosideros excelsa in
the background.

Page 16

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

The succulent flora of Rangitoto is actually represented only by small to medium sized succulents
which rarely come close to their natural growth potential and this is not without a reason I think. As I
already stated several times the black basaltic lava fields can get extremely hot in high summer,
especially in full sun and it is quite sunny here for the average New Zealand conditions, with 49 51% sunny hours. There is no water on the island and also there is virtually no soil in the areas where
succulent plants usually occur to retain the precious moisture for a bit longer. Bigger succulents need
of course more water and this is actually the problem, even if the rainfalls are fairly high, with
yearly averages thought to be slightly higher than in Aucklands central areas, possibly up to 1,100
1,200 mm / year. Big succulent plants or plants with a fast growing pace have a problem I have
seen in several occasions how Aloe maculata or Carpobrotus edulis (if growing on the lava blocks
and not in sand) have died without being able to grow and develop to their full potential. Of course
the Aloe arborescens plants I have seen here were much reduced, but still significantly bigger (and
therefore having much higher water needs) than all other succulent plants, and they still had by far
the biggest vegetation mass from all, with only one notable exception Agave americana.

13. Aloe arborescens close-up of a Yankee Wharf plant (Rangitoto).

Page 17

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

However, Aloe arborescens has not only proved that it can be very persistent and enduring in semiwild conditions of abandoned gardens, but also successful in extreme environments. The only
problem a very reduced potential of unassisted propagation and forming of self-maintaining
Anyway, it is still a mystery for me how could this plant settle here in Yankee Wharf If you are
hunting naturalized succulents this is the place to go on Rangitoto. On relatively large surface very
composite vegetation has established. There is a picture that I particularly like showing four
different tiers of succulent / xerophyte South African plants growing within couple of meters. This is
the uniqueness of Yankee Wharf the strange association of very different plants of different
ecology and specific cultivation needs, because I challenge anyone who would pretend that this kind
of vegetation patterns can be observed in their original habitats.
Yankee Wharf and the surrounding areas have a history of human interventions roads have been
build, quarries were active many decades ago, military installations were built during WW2; all these
activities have produced and dispersed large amounts of abnormally fine substrate, such as crushed
rocks in the area pre-setting all the conditions for different vegetation development paths and has
only increased the natural variations of the texture of the aa lava flows with a direct effect on the
vegetation patterns in Rangitoto (Andrea Julian, 1992). This explains the huge variety of exotic
plants in the area, but still cannot explain how the static Aloe arborescens could establish here, quite
far from the holiday baches the source of the very most exotic succulents and xerophytes on the

XXIV. Notes on Aeonium Rangitoto (II)

Well, theres more potentially upsetting news but there is some good news as well, so in the end its
all good I guess (as one movie character once said). The bad news is that I had to find out the hard
way - in early autumn 2010 how sensitive Aeonium Rangitoto to collar rot can be. All my outdoors
planted specimens were affected, including the one designated to be my prime study specimen and
from which I would have expected to see the flowers in one or two years (well, thats too bad!). By
the same time I had another 5 or 6 smaller potted plants of which just one has been affected by this
disease (9). March and April 2010 saw me cutting and chopping the affected plants in order to save as
many cuttings as possible. At least I have this covered I have now enough plants to release this
winter (thats one of the good news).
However, despite this setback there were some other positive developments as well. After the first
notes on Aeonium Rangitoto being published on my website in the part 7 of Succulent plants from
down under Adventive Plants, on the International Crassulaceae Network forum, in Avonia-News
2009-11, in Romanian version on ACC Aztekiums website and being (still) due to appear in New
Zealand Cactus and Succulent Journal, there were however few feedbacks ranging from skepticism
(Eduardo Carbonel and Flix Loarte of Spain) to neutral (Giuseppe Tavormina of Italy) to some
support of my theory. For a quick refresh I have maintained that Aeonium Rangitoto is a
backcross of a plant identified as Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum (= Aeonium Islington
Bay) by Giuseppe Tavormina to Aeonium haworthii. Ray Stephenson considered upfront that my
plant is an ordinary Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum hybrid, after a second set of pictures
being posted on ICN and sent to him by Margrit Bischofberger, he admitted seeing signs of
Page 18

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

backcrossing (you can imagine how delighted I was). His second opinion was in support for my
theory, but things have not stopped here. Nick Perrin (the editor of NZCSJ, to whom I also sent a live
plant) has emailed all the stuff hes got from me by late 2009 to Rudolf Schulz to hear the opinion of
another authentic Aeonium connoisseur. With Rudolf being probably overseas we didnt get the
much wanted feedback for many months but a second email was answered to in less than 24 hours by
mid April 2010. Heres the core of Rudolfs feedback: I have no trouble in accepting Eduart's
conclusions. There is a lot of guesswork as to the parentage because there are no comments on
flowering and without that its all just guesswork. I am pretty convinced that the A. haworthii x
undulatum is correct but from there its just guessing. I would assume that the 2x plants in question
which he proposes to name could just as well be F2 offspring from the fertile hybrids showing more
of the dominant A. haworthii traits. From what I have seen around the road cuts in Miramar,
Wellington, similar plants are not uncommon.

14. Aeonium Rangitoto in full vegetation (August 2009).

Oh, how I wish I would have observed the flowering! But as it looks now this prospect has been
postponed again for at least a couple of years. Rudolf Schulz comes up actually with a different
theory. In his second scenario Aeonium Islington Bay would be the F1 hybrid of Aeonium
haworthii and Aeonium undulatum, while Aeonium Rangitoto is the F2 hybrid displaying more

Page 19

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

accentuated Aeonium haworthii traits due to genetic dominance. I have pretty detailed pictures of an
Aeonium Islington Bay flowering, from now on its just a waiting game for the flowering of
Aeonium Rangitoto.

15. Aeonium Rangitoto

in full vegetation (August

16. Aeonium Rangitoto

in full vegetation (August
2009) detail with
emerging new rosettes.

Page 20

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

17. Aeonium Rangitoto

in contrast with the true


18. Aeonium Rangitoto

in contrast with the true

haworthii (August 2009).

However, by August 2009 Aeonium Rangitoto was in its prime, considering it is mid to late winter
here. The plant designated for study was in full growth. The rosettes were up to 18 20 cm diameter
(the main rosettes, of course) but usually less, and had up to 30 well formed leaves plus up to 10
Page 21

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

incomplete developed leaves in the apical area (around the apical growth point). Leaves were up to
11 cm long and 3.5 3.8 cm wide in the upper third (for leaves having maximal or close to maximal
length), only 0.8 cm wide at the base but definitely much thicker here. The plant was forming at that
time a dome-like crown (40 cm diameter, 30 cm high) of 25 27 rosettes (very similar to Aeonium
haworthii) most of them showing strong axillary growth, up to 7 8 new rosettes were appearing on
each mature rosette. The true Aeonium haworthii planted nearby for comparison was also showing
axillary offsetting, but only 3 5 offsets per rosette. Few months later this particular Aeonium
Rangitoto had possibly 180 rosettes and was 60 cm diameter and 45 cm high. The plant had a quite
visible main stem, vertical and almost perfectly straight and radial branches at the same level. It also
had slightly glaucous leaves, but much greener although intensely red-edged (a thin line, but very
intense, almost wine red) compared to Aeonium haworthii.
It was definitely growing much faster and stronger than the true Aeonium haworthii. To put it in few
words - Aeonium Rangitoto definitely displays the habit of Aeonium haworthii, but grows much
stronger and borrows form the colours of Aeonium undulatum. Unfortunately, I have to wait for the
flowers for a while

Additional References:
R. Botha Kranz Aloe (Aloe arborescens) (not dated, a slideshow created for EcoPort database);
Ernst van Jaarsveld & Liesl van der Walt (Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden) Crassula coccinea (, 2001);
C.C. Ogle Adventive plants collected in the Wanganui Conservancy of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (2005) - not directly consulted;
Rudolf Schulz (personal comment April 2010);
W.R. Sykes - Succulent Plants on Rangitoto Island (in Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 1992)
E. Zimer Aloe arborescens ( Cactus Romania Enciclopedie, 2006);
E. Zimer Crassula coccinea ( Cactus Romania Enciclopedie, 2007);

Further Readings:
Michael L. Charters - Flora of South Africa

My Notes:
(1) Left alone it barely branches from the base, if pruned some plants start branching profusely (but some not). However, in Rangitoto I have seen
mostly single stemmed naturalized plants or with merely couple of branches.
(2) It is quite rust prone, but there is really nothing you can do about.
(3) I havent tried to propagate Crassula tetragona this way, but I reportedly it is a proven vegetative dispersal mean, not very efficient I think but
given a high number of tries it probably would succeed.
(4) What a coincidence of names! The 1988 Checklist is C.J. Webbs of course!
(5) The list I am working now covers also most of the sub-succulent species.
(6) The article The succulent corner of Yankee Wharf appeared in November 2009 in New Zealand Cactus and Succulent Journal.

Page 22

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::

(7) In later years both plants have been identified and published in adventive flora checklists. However, the only botanical account placing Aloe
arborescens on Rangitoto (W.R. Sykes, 1992) remained unknown to me until after I started to write this chapter.
(8) It could be again the excessive clonal propagation in the early years of cultivation, but I cant exclude completely hybridization in such an old
garden plant.
(9) Most of my Aeonium plants were affected especially the hybrids Aeonium slington Bay and Aeonium Kiwionium. I have never experienced
collar rot in such an extent, it must have been the extremely wet winter, followed by a rather hot and dry summer interrupted every now and than by
spell of heavy rain that has created all the conditions for the disease.

-----------------------------------------------All errors, omissions and misconceptions are mine.

Eduart Zimer, December 2009 May 2010

Page 23

PDF Created with deskPDF PDF Writer - Trial ::