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  Flora Wildflowers /  Common Houseleek

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Common Houseleek

Sempervivum tectorum     Fr: Joubarbe des toits

The French name, "La joubarbe des toits" is much more fitting to this striking plant than house leek, and translates to Jupiter's beard of the roofs". The Latin Sempervivum tectorum means "the always-green plant on the roof". It is always green, and throughout history it has grown naturally on stone walls and tile roofs, and has a reputation of being indestructible.

The houseleek is now more comman as a rock-garden plant, but we found this wildflower on a rocky, southern slope at 1600 m altitude. We've seen many others at around 2000 m altitude at the Col de Salese in the Parc de Mercantour.

First recorded in the 4th century BC by the Greek botanist Theophraste. The Romans cultivated the ornamental rosettes in their courtyards. Charlemagne ordered them to be grown on the roof of every house.

Roots. The fibrous roots can cling to anything, notably stone walls and tile roofs.

Altitude. 1600 m

Flower. The flowers grow in an inflorescence on a leaf-covered stalk extending up from the leaf rosettes.

Leaves. The tight rosettes of leaves are the main part of the plant, growing as a star with 13 branches; actually 13 petals, and several rosettes growing in a tight bunch together.

Habitat. Sunny, dry and well-drained soil.

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