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Sempervivum arachnoideum subsp. tomentosum

Sempervivum arachnoideum subsp tomentosum

This little gem is part of the Grace Rollerson Sempervivum Collection. It grows on the rock wall of the Alpine House in the Intermountain Habitat of the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. It almost looks like it was snowing in the garden when the photo was taken, but the fibres we see are typical of Sempervivum arachnoideum, the cobweb houseleek.

Sempervivum species grow naturally from northern Africa to western Asia. The succulent plants are widely cultivated and common in North American gardens. Sempervivum arachnoideum is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and subsp. tomentosum is primarily found in the southwest of the species' range. Sempervivum species are commonly called "hens and chicks" for their habit of setting small rosette offshoots that surround the larger mother plant. This species sets offshoots that match the size of the mother plant, forming a group of more or less equal sized rosettes.

For a little more info on the plant, Paghat writes an interesting description and gives good advice for growing cobweb houseleek. And Cal's Plant of the Week has a nice fact sheet.


Plant names are so wonderful ! "Arachnoideum" seems pretty straightforward, but the "sempervivum" leads to trouble. I would think it meant "live-forever," but a Google-check shows that many people think the live-forever is (several) other plants. My mother had "hens-and-chicks" in her garden in Oakland, CA, but my memory is of smooth-surfaced plants and their chicks. I've never seen this cobweb houseleek, though I have something very similar but with different coloration. Thank you for the photo and its bio -- such riches !

Oh yes, the smooth type of hens and chickens grew in our rock garden when I was little. There also was a cobwebby one too, but green, and behaved more like the ordinary plant, having 'chickens' much smaller than the 'hen'.

This is a lovely little plant.

I always wondered if they were a kind of cactus.

they are cactus like in that they retain their water in their leaves so they can survive ages with little water & grow out of rocks. Many here in the Swiss alps!

just as there is comfort food
there are comfort plants

my mother and her mother and aunties
had hen and chicks and others in the house

i read on a link- in euorpe they use them
on thier roofs - perhaps a liveing wreath
could be made thank you

Marilyn: apparently, sempervivum is also known as Liveforever, because of its durability.

Semps are wonderful plants. They are a succulent as opposed to a cactus. Grace was my mother who passed away 12 years ago. There are countless shapes, colours, textures and sizes of sempervivum's. They are very hardy. Growing up we had over 100 varieties around the yard. A friend of my mother's in Edmonton Alberta where it gets very gold grows them in her outside garden. If you get a chance go out to UBC Botanical Garden to see the collection.

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