This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Orpine is known entirely, as far as age and distribution go, from its occurrence to-day in the North Temperate Zone in Europe, Siberia, as far as Kamschatka, W. Asia. It is found throughout the Peninsula province, except in S. Somerset; throughout the Channel and Thames provinces, except Hants and in Anglia; in the Severn province, except in E. Gloucs. In Wales it is found in Glamorgan, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Flint, and Anglesea. In the Trent province it occurs in Leicester and Derby; not in Mid Lancs in the Mersey province; throughout the Humber, Tyne provinces; in the Lakes district, except in the Isle of Man. In Scotland, in the West Lowlands, except Wigtown; the E. Lowlands, except in Peebles, Selkirk, Forfar, Kincardine, and S. Aberdeen. In Yorks it is found at a height of 1200 ft. It is found in Ireland in Derry. Orpine is often a garden escape.
Orpine has doubtless been planted in many districts, but in the western counties is quite native, growing in glens and dales, on rocks and walls, or even in stony hedge-banks and woods. For it is a lover of the shade, and may be found most luxuriantly in the same station as the Navelwort and the Spleenworts.
The tufted growth of the erect, unbranched stems of the Orpine, with flat, coarsely-toothed leaves, egg-shaped, oblong, nearly stalkless, give it a characteristic appearance.
The second name has reference to the long period during which the plant can subsist removed from the soil. Its root is large and tuberous, not fibrous. The purple colour is also characteristic. The calyx and corolla have the parts in fives, the former acute, the petals white below. The ovaries are furrowed.
Photo J. J. Ward - Orpine (Sedum Telephium, L.)
Cultivated, this plant may reach 3 ft. in height, but is usually less, or about 2 ft. The period of flowering is between July and September. The plant is perennial.
The flowers are proterandrous, small, but bright and conspicuous, and visited by numerous insects. The flower possesses honey, which can be obtained by short-lipped insects. The stamens open inwards. The first five alternate with the petals, and the inner series is soon covered with pollen. The styles are acute, and stigmatic papillae are developed upon them after the stamens have withered. The petals and the stamens become widespread. Self-pollination does not occur without insects' visits, even when the anthers are stored with pollen when the stigmas ripen. The nectaries are at the points of the long scales, hidden under the ovaries at the base of the petals. Insects touch either the stamens or stigmas of many flowers, and cross-pollinate them by their proterandrous condition.
Self-pollination occurs only in old flowers with pollen on the anthers when the stigmas ripen. Owing to the flowers being closely packed the plant can dispense with self-pollination. It is visited by Bombus campestris, B. sylvarum, B. agrorum, B. lapidarius, Halictus zonatus, Allantus, Echinomyia.
The follicle is many-seeded, and the seeds are dispersed by the wind when the fruit is dry and opens above.
This plant grows on rocky slopes, and is partly rupestral like Cotyledon, but is also a sand-loving plant, and flourishes on a sand soil.
A moth, Hyponomeuta viginti-punctatus, and abroad Parnassius Apollo feed on it.
Sedum, Pliny, is from the Latin sedeo, I sit, from its squatting on rocks. Telephium, Dioscorides, is from Telephus, son of Hercules, King of Mysia. Orpine is a contraction of orpiment, a yellow mineral.
Orpine is also called Alpine Broklimbe, Arpent or Arpent-weed, Harping Johnny, Jacob's Ladder, Lib-long, Livelong, Midsummer Men, Orphan John, Orpies, Orall, Solomon's Puzzles. Arpent, etc., is a variant of Orpine, and Harping is probably a corruption of the same. As to the name Livelong, Lyte says: "The people of the country delight much to set it in pots and shelles on Midsomer even, or upon timber slates or trenchers daubed with clay, and so to set or hang it up in their houses, whereas it remayneth greene a long season, and groweth if it be sometimes over sprinckled with water". And hence the name Midsummer Men. Orpies is a contraction for Orpine, and Orpy leaves were said to be good for wounds. The name Orpine was given first of all to yellow-flowered species, hence its origin. In Chaucer's day they called it Ornal.
Orpine was used as a charm against lightning. With St. John's Wort it was hung over the doorways to scare away witches. Formerly, too, it was employed as a love-charm.
This plant is astringent, and was used for intestinal disorders. It is also mucilaginous. It is cultivated and highly suited to rockery or rock-gardens, growing to a height of 3 ft. when well grown.
Essential Specific Characters: 113. Sedum Telephium, L. - Stem tall, erect, green, with red spots, leaves large, ovate, oblong, upper sessile, rounded below, lower narrow below, flowers purple, in a corymbose cyme, dense, ovaries furrowed dorsally.