Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stupid plant tricks: Lenophyllum texanum

Officially, I have not been growing any Lenophyllum texanum since New Year's Day, 2013, when I threw out the one pot that I had growing, marked it down on the spreadsheet as deceased, and went on.

The plant had other plans. In the process of disposal, some leaves fell off, which I noticed but figured weren't worth the trouble of digging out of the flat and throwing away. Sure, it's a desert plant, but how's it going to survive with no soil, brief periods of water, and little light, was the thinking.

A year and a half later, the leaves have grown into whole plants. The roots have intertwined to form a little mat, against which all the stems can brace themselves, keeping them upright even without any soil. And apparently the mat is good enough at retaining water that they can make do, and even thrive, with just the water they get from being sprayed for about 15 seconds, every couple weeks.

This is impressive, and would even be endearing if it gave the impression of having to exert itself a little. I'm happy to root for underdogs every now and again. But it's not acting like a plucky little underdog, struggling to survive against all odds; it's closer to an unstoppable Terminator type. For the moment, I'm going to keep it -- it's growing in an unused space in the flat, and it's not asking anything of me -- but at least 50% of that decision is because I'm no longer sure whether it's possible to get rid of it.


Diana at Garden on the Edge said...

You've been playing too much Plants vs Zombies and the plants have bred with the zombies to produce an unkillable Lenophyllum texanum! You either need to accept this plant as your new lord and master or burn your house down to keep it from taking over the world!

Jeane said...

that is one awesomely tenacious plant!

Jenn said...

Dude. That's lovely.

I wonder if it would grow in Phoenix?

mr_subjunctive said...


It almost certainly would (native to Texas and NE Mexico), but if you start growing it, it's possible you might never be able to stop. I can certainly spare some leaves if you want to try it; let me know by e-mail.

Most of the pictures I've found of it on-line show gray or gray-green leaves, not pink like my plants. (Indeed, my plants were green or gray until they started trying to grow without soil: the coloration is likely temporary due to stress.)

Liza said...

Talk about enthusiasm for life!

Anonymous said...

Any chance you know what the difference is between Lenophyllum texanum and Lenophyllum acutifolium? How to distinguish one from the other?

Texas Anon

mr_subjunctive said...

Texas Anon:

I hadn't actually heard of L. acutifolium before today, but if this photo is identifying them correctly L-R, L. texanum is smaller, grayer, and has a slight groove down the center of the leaves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. S. I'd already seen that photo, but the one I'm growing can look like either depending on the growing conditions. I need to grow one with a known identity side x side, I think. Maybe then I could tell. Mine is extraordinarily tough. I first saw it growing totally under florescent lighting - no sunlight ever - where it had been for several years. It thrived.

Texas Anon

Unknown said...

Long before I knew the identity of this plant, I used to call it "The Evil Sedum". Back in the late 1970s I brought one (YES ONE) plant of this back to Adelaide from a visit to my father's house on Kangaroo Island. It looked very good THERE - it was filling a crack in the concrete path near the rainwater tank and it was very dense and bronzed.

Now it grows in nearly all my cacti pots on the outdoor benches and it can take up to a half an hour per plant to weed out a pot to make the plant that actually lives in that pot look presentable - I usually have to use long fine point watchmakers tweezers to get every last leaf out of the crevices of the cactus! I have even seen plants grow between the leaves of tightly packed succulents like Gasterias so an empty flat is a doddle by comparison.

I have to warn you though, don't let the plants flower and set seed - that was my mistake and the main reason my infestation is so well spread. Like most Crassulaceae, the seed is extraordinarily fine and dustlike; it will spread on the slightest air currents. In an odd kind of way I admire the species for it's persistence - when I'm not cursing it, that is!

Ciao, KK.

Unknown said...

I meant to add to my earlier comment, that there are actually at least 6 species of Lenophyllum, and you can see pictures of them here - just click on the bold letters in the alphabetical strip at the top, and then on the species names. As far as I know L. texanum is by far the weediest species of the lot, so if yours is weedy, it is likely to be L. texanum!

Ciao Again, KK.