There is another stunning bloomer in the garden, and I would’ve introduced it earlier had I not been seduced by the pink rain lily about which I wrote recently. The rain lily has been identified by a friend as Zephyranthes, but some online sites provide the name Habranthus as synonymous to it. (There is a difference apparently: read this discussion.) How anyone can keep track of these name changes I have no idea – no sooner have I learned a name than systematicists turn around and name it something else. Though perhaps this is one good way of staving off the onset of dementia — give the ageing brain frequent acrobatics like this to perform.
This sensational blooming plant, or more rightly, three of them found unlikely places to settle down and bloom –- in shallow depressions on limestone boulders. There is just the merest layer of coarse soil in which they have rooted themselves. They cannot fail to be noticed from afar, as they are such a fierce acid yellow-green, close to neon-like, beaming in the midst of dry scrub. The flowers seem made out of feathers bundled together, like a shuttlecock.
From the small succulent leaves I suspected the plant might be a sedum. And a search among the Spanish flora online bore fruit – it is called uña de gato (cat’s claw), one among several native Spanish succulents so named, each with blooms of different shapes and colours. This one is Sedum sediforme.
I am indebted to the Catalan site, the Institució Catalana d’Història Natural Bages, for its excellent index of species with photographs, classified according to ecosystem. I managed to identify my stunning little succulent directly under the various sedums photographed, appropriately listed among plants found among rocks. Although the site presents the ecology of the Bages region in Catalonia, among the species listed for the diverse ecosystems on the site’s menu –- pine forests (Els Pinedes or Los Pinares in Spanish), rosemary-dominated scrub (Les Brolles/El Romeral), holm oak forests (L’Alzinar/El Encinar), meadows (Els Prats/Los Prados) — I have identified most of the plants found in my almost one acre garden (about 4000 square meters). Perhaps not surprising, as although we are hundreds of kilometers south of the Bages, the mountain on which this hamlet is on and the surrounding higher mountains have the same diversity of ecosystems, chiefly pine and holm oak forests as well as scrubland and moor-like meadows.
May I mention just how useful botanical Latin is? There are many plants known as uña de gato, among which perhaps the most well-known is an ethnomedicinal South American plant. It came to world attention in the late 80s, early 90s, but that uña de gato is a totally different plant, an Amazonian vine actually — its botanical name is Uncaria tomentosa. Without botanical names, how can one distinguish this Valencian/Catalonian uña de gato from the Amazonian uña de gato? Or indeed, closer to home, this one from the three other Catalonian uñas de gato?
I have no idea if this little sedum in my garden has any medicinal qualities. It does however have its own therapeutic quality. Seeing three of them with their neon-coloured plumes among dry vegetation, blooming from uncompromising boulders in the heat of summer, is therapeutic in its own right.
Today marks the 260th day in my Year of Grace journal and the 260th thing that has provided my day with a sense of grace and wonder — this tiny plant, this little sedum, flowering splendidly out of solid rock.