Crassula streyi (Crassula)
Plant image

This beautiful succulent plant with deep green and red leaves can grow in the deep shade making it a useful addition for many gardens.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Crassula streyi

Common names:

Crassula multicava

Plant family:

Plant categories:
Cacti and Succulents; Non-herbaceous Perennials; Groundcovers

Name derivation & history:
It was first collected by Mr. R.G. Strey of the National Botanical Research Institute in Durban and was named in his honour.

The name Crassula is derived from the Latin "crassus" meaning thick and refers to the leaves.

The genus Crassula occurs mainly in South Africa and is a large one with over 300 species. About 150 species are found in South Africa, with others found in Europe, America, Australia and further afield.



Leaf habit:

20 to 35 cm

Plant shape:
This relatively slow growing perennial grows up to 35 cm tall, but is usually shorter. The stems tend to sprawl and lose the lower leaves as they get older.

Leaf description:
The broadly elliptic succulent leaves are dark glossy green on the top, while the under surface is maroon to carmine giving it a striking appearance. Some forms have attractive white spots along the veins on the upper surface of the leaf. The leaves become longer as they age.

It is thought that the bright red underside of the leaf enhances the collection of light in the deep shade of the forest floor.

Flower description:
The dainty terminal sprays of greenish-yellow flowers are tinged red and borne in May and June.

Flower colour:
Greenish-yellow, tinged with red

Flowering months:
May to June

Bark or stem description:
Stems tend to sprawl and lose the lower leaves as they get older. The lax stems sometimes send down roots.


Natural distribution:
Crassula streyi occurs from Oribi Gorge in KwaZulu Natal to Mkambati Reserve in Pondoland. Both these reserves are on or near the coast.

It always grows in shade, usually on cliff faces in the subtropical forests of the area. It is found in the moist, humus-rich pockets of soil on the sandstone and occasionally in the leaf litter that collects on the forest floor.

Water requirements:
Little water required, but does best with plenty of summer water

Frost tolerance:
Semi-tender (tolerates some cold but not freezing)

Light conditions:
Semi-shade; shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant
Has non-aggressive roots
Suitable for growing in containers
Low maintenance

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.


Other information

Because the plant can tolerate very low light conditions and has such attractive contrasting leaf colours, it would be very suitable for indoor pot plant culture. It could possibly also be used as a ground cover in shady positions or in a very shady pocket in a rockery, but it is not as fast growing or robust as Crassula multicava, however, it is drought resistant.

The plant is best propagated from stem or leaf cuttings in trays containing a mixture of equal parts fine milled bark and coarse perlite. The leaves or cuttings should be allowed to dry out for one or two days before inserting them in the mixture. Planted trays should be kept on the dry side in very shaded conditions until the new stems appear after which they can be potted on into bags or pots containing a loose well drained mixture and kept in deep shade. Hollman 1997 observed that rooting takes place best at the nodes in stem cuttings.

Similar species:
A very similar plant is Crassula multicava, a popular garden plant much used as a ground cover.

At first, Crassula streyi was thought to be a form of Crassula multicava, but in fact differs from it in several ways, the main one being that the guttation glands which form pits on the leaf surfaces only occur along the margins of the leaves in Crassula streyi and are not scattered on the surfaces.

Although rare in its natural sandstone cliffs in coastal forest of the Pondoland river gorges, it is easy to propagate.

It is thought that the bright red underside of the leaf enhances the collection of light in the deep shade of the forest floor.

South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa.

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