The Live Forevers are perennial plants with star-shaped flowers and coarse toothed leaves. This is a short erect plant, up to 2 feet high.
Stems are succulent and un-branched.
Leaves are flat, thick, mostly elliptical and can be either opposite or alternate, very often with course teeth as shown in these photos. Upper leaves connect direct to the stem, lower leaves have short stalks. The upper and lower leaf surfaces can be separated by lateral pressure with the finger tips, creating a purse or pudding bag as the older common names imply.
The inflorescence is a compound cyme atop the stem.
Pink flowers appear in compact heads, each petal has pointed spreading tips; there are 10 stamens with reddish anthers, 5 carpels, each with a persistent short style. Petals are twice the length of the 5 sepals. The flowers can also be whitish.
Seeds are very small but plants seldom produce seed.
Habitat: Live Forever spreads vegetatively from a white parsnip shaped tuberous root. The roots attach to stems by small necks which can break off easily and the break will put forth a new stalk. This makes the plant difficult to control if you want to eradicate it. The species prefers drier sites and full sun.
Names: The common name refers to the ability of the plant to sustain itself for a long period when uprooted or after being cut for decoration with the leaves kept on as both the leaves and the root are fleshy. It is considered to originally be a mountain plant from southern Europe. While the first part of the genus name, hylo, refers to water, the second part, telephium, which is also the species name, is more obscure. Mrs. Grieve (Ref. #7) says it is derived from Telephus, the son of Hercules, who is supposed to have discovered its virtues. Stern (Ref. #37a) says Telephus was a king of Mysia in Asia Minor. The author names for the plant classification are first - 'L.' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was amended by ‘H. Ohba’ refers to Hideaki Ohba (b. 1943), Japanese botanist, associated with the University of Tokyo, whose work includes specialization on the Crassulaceae family. Previously, the plant was classified as Sedum telephium and also as S. purpureum.
Comparisons: A garden plant that has similar flowers is the Stolon Stonecrop, Sedum stoloniferum, which is invasive as it spreads along the ground by stolons and by rooting at stem nodes.
Above: The inflorescence - photo from 1999 in the Upland Garden. Drawing courtesy of Kurt Stüber's Online Library.
Bewlow: The stem and leaves are succulent. Note the upper leaves are without stalks.
Below: The plant begins growth from small rosettes each of which becomes a stem. Not the coarse edges on the leaves.
Below: Pink flowers appear in compact heads, each petal has pointed spreading tips; there are 10 stamens with reddish anthers. Seeds are seldom produced
Notes: Eloise Butler first introduced Live Forever to the Garden in 1910 with a planting on Oct. 21st with plants obtained in the vicinity of Cedar Ave and 21st St. in Minneapolis. Martha Crone first planted it in 1933, then again in 1935 and '36. This plant was listed on Martha Crone's 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time and has been on the current Garden Plant Lists and photographed as recently as 2012. Martha Crone listed it in the "Orpine" family which was another, older, name for the Stonecrop family. Distribution has been reported in 10 scattered counties in Minnesota, including Hennepin, but the plant is not native and was introduced to North America from Europe.
Medicinal Lore: In the far distant past there was use of the leaves and the root for medicinal use. Culpepper (Ref. #4b ) refers back to older accounts for the usage as by his day it was little used.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"