Herbs & Plants


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Botanical Name:Sempervivum tectorum
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Genus: Sempervivum

Synonyms: Jupiter’s Eye. Thor’s Beard. Jupiter’s Beard. Bullock’s Eye. Sengreen. Ayron. Ayegreen.
(French) Joubarbe des toits.
(German) Donnersbart.

Common Name:    Houseleek, Common houseleek, Hen and Chickens
Part Used: Fresh leaves.

Habitat : Original habitat is not known but the plant is naturalized in Britain  &    occur from Morocco to Iran, through the mountains of Iberia, the Alps, Carpathians, Balkan mountains, Turkey, the Armenian mountains, in the northeastern part of the Sahara Desert, and the Caucasus.  Their ability to store water in their thick leaves allows them to live on sunny rocks and stony places in the montane, subalpine and alpine belts.

Houseleeks grow as tufts of perennial but monocarpic rosettes. Each rosette propagates Asexually by lateral rosettes (offsets, “hen and chicks“), by splitting of the rosette (only Jovibarba heuffelii) or sexually by tiny seeds.

This plant has a fibrous root, with several tufts of oblong, acute, extremely succulent leaves. The stem from the centre of these tufts is about a foot high, erect, round, and downy; flowers large, pale rose-colored, and scentless. Offsets spreading.

Sempervivum arachnoideum.Typically, each plant grows for several years before flowering. Their hermaphrodite flowers have first a male stage. Then the stamens curve themselves and spread away from the carpels at the center of the flower, so Self-pollination is rather difficult. The colour of the flowers is reddish, yellowish, pinkish, or – seldom – whitish. In Sempervivum, the flowers are actinomorphic (like a star) and have more than six petals, while in Jovibarba, the flowers are campanulate (bell-shaped) and are pale green-yellow with six petals. After flowering, the plant dies, usually leaving many offsets it has produced during its life.

Although their subtropical cousins are very frost-sensitive, Sempervivums are among the most frost-resistant succulents, making them popular garden plants. They require only moderate water and some protection from extreme exposure to the sun.

Sempervivums grow very well in dry conditions. Despite this if Sempervivums are grown in normal flower beds among other cultivated plants there can be a problem. If the flower beds are not particularly dry other plants may grow more strongly than the Sempervivums and overshadow them. Other plants may need to be removed, cut back or tied out of the way.

“Semp-lovers” are numerous and often have many different cultivars in their collections. Sempervivums are very variable plants and hence hundreds, maybe thousands of cultivars were created, but a lot of them are not much different from each other. The main interest of these cultivars are not their flowers, but form and colour of the rosette-leaves. The most colourful time is generally from March till June.

Culinary Use

A variety of this plant is commonly used in vegetarian cuisine in Taiwan. (Chinese name:  shi2 lian2 hua1, lit. stone lotus leaf.) They are eaten raw, one leaf at a time, much like celery.

Medicinal Uses:

It is also purported to have medicinal benefits. The fresh leaves are useful as a refrigerant when bruised, and applied as a poultice in erysipelatous affections, burns, stings of insects, and other inflammatory conditions of the skin. The leaves, sliced in two, and the inner surface applied to warts is a positive cure for them. It can be used for many skin diseases. The leaves also possess an astringent property, serviceable in many cases

Hens and Chicks can be used like a weaker version of Aloe Vera. The bruised or torn leaves can be applied to burns or skin inflammations for relief. Folklore also says this herb will remove warts and corns.

While some sources do list this plant as a “green herb,” or one cabable of being ingested, be cautioned that in large doses the juice of the leaves can be emetic and purgative.

The Latin botanical name has an historical reference. Charlemagne (742-814 A.D.) recommended that his subjects plant these hardy prolific plants on the roof of their houses to ward off lightening and fire. The leaves contain tannins and mucilage that are soothing to skin. It is used in the treatment of burns, skin wounds and infections.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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