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Petrophytum caespitosum (Torr. & Gr.) Rydb.

Modern name

Petrophytum caespitosum (Nutt. ex Torr. & A.Gray) Rydb.


Spiraea caespitosa Nutt. ex Torr. & Gr.

It is, perhaps, stretching the term ‘shrub’ somewhat to include mention here of this species, but its base is purely woody and as it occurs in nature the main stem may be half an inch or more in diameter. The plant is a low, prostrate evergreen forming a close, compact tuft or mat an inch or two high. One writer describes it in the state of Idaho as making dense and perfectly flat mats of tough woody branches growing over rocks, in the cracks of which the seed had originally germinated. Leaves oblanceolate, not toothed, 14 to 12 in. long, 18 in. or less wide, tapering gradually to the base, bluntish at the apex except for a minute tip; grey-green covered with silky hairs. Flowers white, very small, produced during July and August densely packed in cylindrical racemes 1 to 212 in. long, the racemes being borne at the top of an erect stalk 1 to 4 in. long. The stamens (about twenty to each flower) are conspicuously exposed.

Native of the S.W. states of N. America, where it often occurs on limestone formations. It is hardy even in the eastern United States and is grown successfully in Scotland. It is adapted only for the rock garden, or moraine, where there is perfect drainage and unobstructed sunshine. Very distinct in its dwarfness, its narrow entire leaves, and the close packing of the small flowers near the top of a quite erect spike.

P. hendersonii (Canby) Rydb. Eriogynia hendersonii Canby; Spiraea hendersonii (Canby) Piper – Judging from wild specimens, this species differs from P. caespitosum in its larger more broadly spathulate leaves 14 to 58 in. long and up to almost 14 in. wide, often with two veins springing from the base on each side of the midrib; they are also only sparsely villose on both sides. The flower-spikes are rather short, up to 134 in. or so long.

An endemic of the Olympic Mountains, Washington, USA, where it inhabits talus-slopes and the crevices of cliffs and rocks at 5,000 to 7,500 ft; introduced by Jack Drake and Will Ingwersen from Mt Angeles in 1936. It is perfectly hardy, flowers from midsummer onwards, and grows well on the rock garden in a scree or crevice. It also makes a good pot-plant for the alpine house, and some gardeners have found that it flowers much more freely when grown that way than in the open ground. Propagated by cuttings taken in spring or after flowering, by layers, or by seed. A.M. 1963. Wild plants are illustrated in Qtly Bull. A.G.S., Vol. 6, p. 216 and Vol. 15, p. 248.



Other species in the genus

[No species article available]