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 of "Witch's Moneybags" and "Purse Plant" and "Pudding-bags" imply.
The inflorescence is a compound cluster atop the stems. Multiple flower bearing stems branch out from the top of main stem. Each cluster is made up of one or more stalked clusters which form a compound rounded cluster.
Pink flowers appear in compact cymes, each flower has 5 pinkish petals with pointed spreading tips; there are 10 stamens with reddish anthers exserted above the petals; 5 carpels, each of a deeper pink color and with a persistent short style. The calyx is 5-lobed; the petals are twice the length of the 5 calyx lobes which are spatula shaped. The flowers can also be whitish-yellowish.
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 of the Live Forevers 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, Sedum triphyllum, and also as S. purpureum.
Comparisons: A garden plant that has similar flowers is the Stolon Stonecrop, Sedum stoloniferum, which is invasive as it also 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.
Below: 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: The first definite introduction of Live Forever into the Garden by Eloise Butler was on Oct. 17, 1927 when she brought in Sedum triphyllum from a source in the "vicinity of Anoka Mn." It's possible that the first occurrence could have been Oct. 21, 1910 when she brought in a plant she named "Aaron's Rod". That name however, has been applied to several plants including Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus. Since her 1910 source was Glenwood Springs, right near the Garden, we believe her 1910 plant was Mullein. Going forward in time, Martha Crone first planted it in 1933, then again in 1935 and '36 and when she was developing the Upland Garden, in 1952 and '53. Live-forever 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. That is where the common name of "Common Orpine" comes from. 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.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"