Welsh, Brwydog, Bywlys, Briweg; (Sedum Anglica), Gwen-nith y brain. - French, Orpin. - German, Hauswurz, Haus-wurzel, Haus laub, Dach laub. - Italian, Favagello. - Spanish, Telefio, Fabacras. - Arabic, Hay alem.
* * "Hauswurzel aufs.
Dach gepflanzt, schlagt der Donner nicht im Haus. says the old proverb of the Germans, who extend the rights of hospitality equally to the sacred stork, which so trustingly nestles in the roof, and to the stonecrop which clings so closely to the thatch; and that some such superstition should be attached to it is not wonderful, when we consider the unusual, dry, and to all appearance, not very promising situation which it selects as its chosen dwelling-place. A similar feeling formerly prevailed in England, and probably still lingers in by-places, and unsophisticated districts, as it does in Wales, where the peasantry cling as fondly to the old belief in its power both to protect the house from thunder (on which account it may be observed to be always carefully planted on smith's forges, which from the quantity of iron lying about, may be supposed doubly attractive to lightning), and to ensure the prosperity of the inmates, as the most home-loving German. In some parts of England it is considered unlucky to let this plant flower, on which account the flower-stalk is constantly cut off before it shoots up to any height.
The idea may perhaps have arisen from the circumstance that after flowering the leaves of the plant sometimes fall off, leading the observer to imagine that the whole plant is about to die. Pliny mentions the stonecrop as infallible for procuring sleep. But to produce this effect, it is necessary to wrap the plant in a black cloth, and to lay it under the pillow of the patient, carefully avoiding any chance of his, or her, knowing that it is there.
Live-long or Stonecrop. - Sedum.
In speaking of the stonecrops I include with them the closely allied houseleek (sempervwum) as it is thus classed by all non-scientific observers, and shares the virtues, both supernatural and physical, attributed to the others. The Hay alem of the Arabs is the Sedum confertum, the only Egyptian species of this genus. We have in Britain but one true houseleek (S. tectorum). All these plants, except one, are highly valuable as cooling and healing applications to cuts, burns, and bruises. This exception is the "wall-pepper," or biting stonecrop (S. acre), which is remarkably acrid; when applied to the skin it raises blisters, and when swallowed, acts as an emetic; though in skilful and cautious hands it is useful in quartan agues, and other complaints. On biting it, no acridity is at first observed, but after a minute or two an extraordinary sensation of tingling and burning in the throat is felt; first the lips, and then the throat begin to swell, and the last feels almost as if it were closed. This plant is perhaps the most beautiful of its beautiful family - so far as they occur in England - as it literally gilds the roof of time-worn cottages, or battered castle walls.
And perhaps too it merits, almost more than the others, the name of "live-long," as it will live, and appear perfectly to flourish for months, if it be but occasionally sprinkled with water, or if its root or stem be immersed in water occasionally for a few minutes. On this account we sometimes see it in old-fashioned farm-houses, forming a fresh and pleasant fire-place screen or "chimney-board" the summer through: the plants being inserted into a frame of crossbars of wire or wood, so that their roots are towards the grate, and their closely arranged discs towards the room; the whole surface being occasionally sprinkled with water. There are few more interesting phenomena than those which relate to the time that plants, according to their succulency, will retain life without the application of soil to the roots. Aloes have this property in a remarkable degree, a circumstance well known on such of our coasts as are situated within the influence of trade with the new world. In such places few cottages are without an aloe-plant suspended in their doorway or their window,* reminding the traveller of a belief which exists in some parts of the East that an aloe-plant so suspended will, by always turning towards Mecca, act as a charm in favour of the inmates of the house.
Every observation however convinces me, more and more, of the fallacy of the popular opinion, so often discussed, that such succulent plants derive their nourishment, in any marked degree from the atmosphere. They literally feed upon the share of moisture contained within their own substance.
The sengreen-stonecrop (S. reflexum) is frequently eaten in salads, and is considered very cool and refreshing in the hot days of summer.
In addition to the peculiar charm which the golden, silvery, or purple bloom of the different stonecrops give alike to the wild rock, and decaying, or cared-for, building, they have this extraordinary recommendation; that even in crevices where it is impossible for human fingers to insert a plant or proper cutting, they may be made to grow by simply dropping in scraps of the plant cut into fragments.
Britain possesses eleven species of the stonecrop; which are, in addition to those already mentioned, the true orpine (S. telephium), whose leaves present a plane surface: the thick-leaved S. dasy-phyllum, with rose-tinged flowers: the sea-coast "English stonecrop" (S. Anglicum): the white stone-crop (S album): the hairy S. villosum, which, unlike its cogeners, flourishes in moist, though stoney places, as by the sides of mountain rivulets: the tasteless yellow S. sexangulare: the glaucous (S. glaucum): the S. rupestre, named in English, St. Vincent's stonecrop, from its occurrence on the St. Vincent rocks, at Bristol, though it also occurs at Darlington, in Yorkshire; and the Welsh stone-crop (S. Fosterianum), which grows on some few rocks in Cardiganshire, and probably in other adjacent situations.
* In the Seignory of Gower, in Glamorganshire, these most treasured remembrances of the absent sailor, are termed "livelong" or "most glorious" while all the sedums are called house-leek.