Sedum (Lat. sedere, to sit, in allusion to the manner in which some of the plants are attached to rocks), the name of a genus of plants some of which are known as orpine, stone-crop, and live-for-ever, while the botanical name is in common use for the ornamental species. It belongs to the family crassulaceoe with several other genera of mostly succulent plants, one of which, sempervivum, is described under Houseleek. The sedums include annual and perennial plants of very variable habit; some are low and creep along the ground, forming moss-like tufts, while others are erect, and a few are somewhat woody; the leaves are fleshy, and variable in shape, being cylindrical and linear, or flat and broad, and both opposite and alternate; the flowers, mostly in cymes, are white, yellow, and rose-colored; the petals, sepals, and pistils are four or five, and the stamens twice that number, the mostly distinct ovaries ripening into many-seeded pods. About six species are indigenous to the Atlantic states, and two have been introduced from Europe, one of which, 8. telephium, the live-for-ever, has long been a garden plant, and has become naturalized as a troublesome weed in various parts of the country.
Its strong stems form a dense clump 2 ft. high; the large oval leaves are toothed on the margins; the flowers are pale purple in a dense terminal cluster, and appear in July. This, like many others of the species, is very tenacious of life; a stem cut and pinned up against the wall will continue to grow, and even flower, at the expense of the nutriment contained in the lower leaves and the base of the stem; it is often called Aaron's rod, and in England it is known as midsummer-men; the country girls on midsummer's eve set up two stems of it, one for themselves and the other for their lover; the fidelity of the lover is estimated by his plant turning to theirs. In Europe it has a reputation as a remedy for diarrhoea, being mucilaginous and slightly astringent. - Stonecrop (S. acre) naturally grows upon rocks and walls; it is a low moss-like species, forming a dense mat of light green, and producing numerous yellow flowers in July. It has long been cultivated, and is sometimes used for edgings, and often to cover the earth in flower vases, hanging baskets, and the like; it has also become naturalized.
It is exceedingly acrid to the taste, and one of its common names in England is wall pepper; it is emetic and cathartic in large doses, and if the bruised leaves be kept long in contact with the skin a blister will be produced. - Among the native species is S. ternatum, with low spreading stems, flat wedge-shaped leaves, and ternate or three-spiked cymes of white flowers, is found from Pennsylvania south and westward, and is often cultivated. The showiest native species, properly named S. pulchellum, as it is one of the handsomest of the genus, is a more southern plant; its stems, often a foot high, are crowded with linear cylindrical leaves, and at the top bear a broad cyme, the spikes of which are arranged in a very regular manner, and bear a profusion of rose-purple flowers; it is now and then cultivated, and in some localities is known as the widow's cross. Rose-root (S. rhodiola) is a dioecious species with greenish yellow and purplish flowers, and a rose-scented root; it grows sparingly in Pennsylvania, but is plenty on the extreme eastern coast. Several sedums are peculiar to the far west and the Pacific coast. About 125 species in all are enumerated, some being only of botanical interest, while several are prized in cultivation.
One, under the name of S. carneum variegatum, is a popular garden plant; it is of low growth and has its small leaves edged with white; nothing is known of its origin, and it has not produced flowers. - The Japan sedum, S. specta-bile (called in the catalogues S. Fabaria) is a fine species, 12 to 18 in. high, with rose-purple flowers in dense cymes, which are 6 in. across; it is especially valuable on account of blooming in September, when flowers of delicate tints are scarce. Another Japanese species is Sie-bold's sedum (S. Siebol-dii), with slender stems, which soon become prostrate, and nearly round leaves in whorls of three, of a fine glaucous green; the terminal cymes of pink or purplish flowers open in October; there is a variegated form in which the leaves are distinctly marked with yellowish white; though perfectly hardy, both the plain and the variegated forms are seen to much better advantage if grown as house plants, in a hanging pot or a vase. The sedums are easily multiplied by dividing the clump or making cuttings of the stems.
Live-for-ever (Sedum telephium).
Stonecrop (Sedum acre).