Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa

Scientific Name

Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa (Schönland) Toelken


Crassula avasimontana, Crassula capitella subsp. enantiophylla, Crassula elata, Crassula enantiophylla, Crassula guchabensis, Crassula nodulosa, Crassula nodulosa f. rhodesica, Crassula nodulosa var. longisepala, Crassula nodulosa var. nodulosa, Crassula pectinata

Scientific Classification

Family: Crassulaceae
Subfamily: Crassuloideae
Genus: Crassula


This subspecies is native to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. It is found in grassland, usually on gravelly slopes or in depressions.


Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa is a perennial, rarely biennial succulent with a usually solitary rosette and an erect, unbranched stem that grow from a tuberous root. The leaves near the base of the rosette are tightly packed, egg-shaped with the narrow end at the base, pointed, up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) long and up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) wide. Leaves along the stem are smaller and more pointed than basal leaves. They gradually get smaller and change into floral bracts, as the stem forms an up to 32 inches (80 cm) long, pointed inflorescence. The stem, leaves, and sepals are covered with short recurved hairs. Flowers are white or reddish, 5-lobed, and appear in clusters in the leaf axils from summer to fall.


The subspecific epithet "nodulosa (nod-yoo-LOH-suh)" is an inflected form of the Latin adjective "nodulōsus," meaning "having small nodes or knots." It refers to the texture of the stems.

How to Grow and Care for Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa

Light: C. capitella subsp. nodulosa prefers full sun to partial shade. However, intense afternoon sun in the hottest period of summer can burn the leaves of the plant. A place with morning sun and afternoon shade would be perfect. Indoors, place your plants in a window where they receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Soil: This plant is not particular about soil pH, but it requires very porous soil with excellent drainage. Use commercial potting soil mixes designated for use with succulents or mix your own.

Hardiness: Like most Crassulas, this succulent will tolerate some amount of short-term freezing, but extremes of cold or heat will cause it to lose leaves and die. C. nodulosa can withstand temperatures as low as 25 to 50 °F (-3.9 to 10 °C), USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b.

Watering: Avoid overwatering by using the "soak and dry" method, where the soil is soaked with water, slowly drained, and left to dry out before watering again. Reduce watering in winter. Potted plants require more frequent watering than those in the ground.

Fertilizing: C. nodulosa do not need much feeding but will benefit from a small amount of organic fertilizer in mid-spring when it starts actively growing.

Repotting: Repot as needed, preferably in spring, at the beginning of the period of active growth. Make sure the soil is dry before you begin repotting.

Propagation: This succulent is generally started by leaves or stem cuttings. It can also be grown from seeds and offsets. The easiest way is to propagate C. nodulosa from a single leaf, while using stem cuttings, is the fastest way to get a decent-sized plant. These processes are most successful if done at the beginning of its active growth period. Sow the seeds in the spring or summer. Propagating by dividing offsets is very easy because the parent plant has already done most of the work for you.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Crassula.

Toxicity of Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa

C. nodulosa is nontoxic to people and pets.


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Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa - garden

Origin and Habitat: Crassula capitella is a variable species native to southern Africa it is found in Transvaal, Free State, Eastern Cape, and in some parts of southern Namibia and Botswana. Subsp. capitella spreads from the Eastern Cape westwards to the Little Karoo and north-wards into the Free State.

Description: Crassula capitella is a variable subshrubby succulent species up to 40 cm tall when flowering, embracing a full range from perennial decumbent plants which rarely form basal rosettes to biennials plants with one rosette less than a span tall. The narrow and pointed stacked leaves forms a characteristic spirally arranged or 4-ranked rosette and the rosette that bloom will die. It blooms in the summer and forms a spike-like inflorescence with small white flowers. Three or four subspecies are recognized, the nominate form, subs. thyrsiflora (Thunb.) Toelken, subsp. meyeri (Harv.) Toelken and (possibly) subsp. nodulosa (Schönland) Toelken. Some of its subspecies and varieties were previously considered good species on their own. It was introduced in Europe in 1774 by Masson.
subsp. capitella: This subspecies is mostly biennial with only one rosette not tuberous at the base.
Stems: Round, smooth, erect or decumbent and usually woody, sometimes branched at the top.
Leaves: It opposite pairs, sessile, connate, spirally arranged or 4-ranked in basal rosettes often recurved, cartilaginous, linear-lanceolate, patulous, pointed, (10-)20-70(-120) mm long and (3-)10-20 mm broad, usually smallest near the centre of the rosette, glabrous or hairy, pale green often red spotted, hydathodes red, scattered over upper surface. Margins ciliate with fine recurved hairs or papillae.
Inflorescences: The inflorescence emergeing from the centre of the rosettes is a hairless or hairy dichasia, a cymose inflorescence in which each branch bearing a flower gives rise to two other flowering branches,. It is distinguished from Crassula hemisphaerica by the leaves slowly decreasing in size on the flowering axis. Plants of subsp. capitella are distinguished from those of var. nodulosa by the glabrous bracts sub­tending the sessile dichasia, and the emarginate squamae found in specimens from the eastern parts of its distribution area.
Flowers: White, star-like, bisexual. Sepals 1-4 mm, triangular-lanceolate, pointed, with marginal hairs. Petals, white tinged pink, 2-5 mm (generally under 4 mm in length) arching, oblong-lanceolate, blunt, smooth with fleshy tips and a dorsal appendage. Stamens 2-4.5mm, anthers dark brown. Styles very short or absent. Stigmas broad and lateral.
Blooming season: Crassula capitella is a monocarpic species, meaning that it dies after flowering. Although their white flowers are attractive, each time they bloom, a rosette dies.
Remarks: The longer-leaved Crassula 'Campfire' (some-times identified as Crassula capitella cv. Campfire) turns orangey red when grown in full sun.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Crassula capitella group

  • Crassula capitella" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Crassulaceae/26598/Crassula_capitella'> Crassula capitella Thunb. : (subsp. capitella) is mostly biennial, glabrous, with only one rosette not tuberous at the base, leaves recurved, linear-lanceolate 20-70 x 10-20 mm. Distribution: Eastern Cape, Little Karoo and the Free State.
  • Crassula capitella subs. enantiophylla (Baker f.) Toelken : same as Crassula capitella subs. nodulosa.
  • Crassula capitella subs. meyeri (Harv.) Toelken : is a decumbent perennial form becoming woody at the base, glabrous or sparsely hairy, styles indistinct and stigmas lateral. Distribution: sand dunes along the central Kwa-Zulu-Natal coast.
  • Crassula capitella subs. nodulosa (Schönland) Toelken : it has hairy, robust, erect inflorescence, hairy bracts and sepals, short or absent style and is tuberous or woody at its base. Distribution: Transvaal, Northern Cape and Botswana.
  • Crassula capitella subs. sessilicymula (Mogg) Toelken : has a woody base and flowering branches dividing at the base. Leaves lanceolate 20-40 o 10-15 mm. Distribution: Transvaal between Pretoria and Naboomspruit.
  • Crassula capitella subs. thyrsiflora" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Crassulaceae/26614/Crassula_capitella_subs._thyrsiflora'> Crassula capitella subs. thyrsiflora (Thunb.) Toelken : has basal rosettes but may be decumbent. Leaves acute-tipped, hairless except for the margins, occasionally toothed sepals glabrous petals usually wit rounded appendages styles distinct stigmas terminal and insignificant. Distribution: Western and Eastern Cape and south-eastern Namibia.
  • Crassula capitella cv. Campfire" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Crassulaceae/27340/Crassula_capitella_cv._Campfire'> Crassula capitella cv. Campfire : has long leaves that turns orangey red when grown in full sun.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Debra Lee Baldwin “Succulent Container Gardens: Design Eye-Catching Displays with 350 Easy-Care Plants” Timber Press, 20/Jan/2010
2) Gordon Rowley “Crassula: A Grower's Guide” Cactus & Company, 2003
3) Toelken, H.R. 1997. “A revision of the genus Crassula” in southern Africa. Annals of the Bolus Herbarium 8,1-595.
4) Dr J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa” 2003
5) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Crassulaceae” Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 05/Nov/2012
6) Wikipedia contributors. "Crassula capitella." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Sep. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
7) Doreen Court “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” CRC Press, 01/Jun/2000
8) Debra Lee Baldwin “Succulent Container Gardens: Design Eye-Catching Displays with 350 Easy-Care Plants” Timber Press, 20/Jan/2010
9) John Wilkes “Encyclopaedia Londinensis” Volume 5 1810
10) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey “The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass” Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
11) Alfred Byrd Graf “Exotica, series 4 international: pictorial cyclopedia of exotic plants from tropical and near-tropic regions” Roehrs Co. Publishers, 1985

Crassula capitella Photo by: Carolina González
Crassula capitella Photo by: Carolina González

Cultivation and Propagation: Crassula capitella does well in containers, and makes a good houseplant. It is not difficult to cultivate. It thrive with bright light and ample airflow.
Growth rate: Moderately fast.
Soil: It grows best in sandy-gritty soil. Good drainage is very important as it is prone to root rot.
Repotting: Repot every two years in spring. Do not radically cut off roots: about 10 percent of the root ball is right.
Fertilization: Feed it from mid spring to early autumn every four or five weeks with a fertilizer specifically formulated for cactus and succulents (poor in nitrogen), including all micro nutrients and trace elements diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. Do not feed plants during winter.
Watering Needs: It is a dry-tolerant plant. Water regularly in the growing season, but avoid water-logging and let dry between waterings. Water with caution in winter, as the plant can lose its roots if the soil stays cold and wet for extended periods. The lower the temperature the less water is needed. If grown in a container, bottom watering by immersing the container is recommended. Mist spraying is not needed, it must have very dry atmosphere.
Sun Exposure: Does well in filtered sun, but can handle some shade, too. In shade the leaves colour will remain more green, while in harsh full sun conditions the foliage can develop a pinkish tinge. In summer keep cool and provide some shelter from direct sun during the hottest hours. It can be sunburned if moved from shade/greenhouse into full sun too quickly. It tends to get leggy in deep shade.
Frost Tolerance: Protect from frost to prevent scarring. It requires a minimum temperature of about 5°C, but will take a light frost and is hardy down to -5° C for short periods if it is in dry soil (Lethal temperature in habitat -6 to -10 ° Celsius). USDA zones 9A – 11. In areas prone to frost, grow in an intermediate greenhouse or conservatory, in pots. The plant may be kept indoors throughout the year at a minimum winter temperature of 10°C not exceeding 18°C. In summer, the temperature will rise higher, but as this is accompanied by better light it does not matter. Position the plant near a sunny window.
Garden uses: They make wonderful rocker plants in hot, dry areas and also grow well in containers or luminous patios.
Traditional uses: None recorded.
Pests and diseases: May be susceptible to mealybugs and rarely scale. Protect from cold.
Propagation: From seed but it is easily increased by cuttings. Cuttings root easily. It is also possible, to plant the leaves in good, sandy soil where they will take root - members of this family often propagate vegetatively in this way. Take leaf cuttings in spring and summer. Detach a leaf from an established plant by pulling or bending, and leave it to dry for a day. Insert the broken end of the leaf into a mix of one part slightly moist peat and two parts sharp sand Firm the mix around the bases of each cut-ting, which will later grow roots. The leaf cutting can then be repotted.

Crassula capitella

Crassula albanensis
Crassula capitella subsp. capitella
Crassula capitellata
Crassula impressa
Crassula paniculata
Crassula rufopunctata
Crassula spicata
Crassula subbifera
Crassula turrita var. latifolia
Globulea impressa
Globulea paniculata
Purgosea capitellata
Purgosea spicata
Turgosea capitella

Crassula capitella is native to Namibia, South Africa, and Botzwana.

Crassula capitella has 5 subpecies:

Crassula capitella subsp. capitella
Crassula capitella subsp. meyeri
Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa
Crassula capitella subsp. sessilicymula
Crassula capitella subsp. thyrsiflora: this species is also called Crassula turrita.

Crassula capitella is a tiny perennial herb with elongated, green leaves that turn into a bright red when they grow old. Leaves can be arranged in spirals or in basal, recurve rosettes. Its stems are maximum 40 centimeters tall. White starry flowers are formed in a cymose inflorescence called, in botany, dichasia, formed in the center of the rosettes. This is a monocarpic species, which means that it dies after having blossomed.

Cultivation of Crassula capitella is not so difficult. t needs a sandy, well-draining substrate and it tolerates drought. During its growing season, in Spring and Summer, water it moderately: in Winter, reduce waterings until suspending them completely. It needs a partial exposure to sunlight. In more sunny spots, leaves tend to become more reddish, while, in shade, they tend to remain greener.

Propagation is made through stem cuttings and leaf cuttings, Stem cuttings should be more or less 13 centimeters long and they should be planted in a sandy, humid substrate.

Crassula capitella

Common names: red flames (Eng.) aanteelrosie (Afr.) bohobe babadisana (Sesotho)


Crassula capitella is a stunning succulent that looks fantastic in rockeries and landscape gardens. It is used ornamentally to add a permanent colour in the garden. It is also an excellent indoor container plant. When grown in shade the leaves are bright apple-green all year round.



Crassula capitella is a small, perennial herb, with fleshy, propeller-like leaves that mature from bright lime-green to bright red. It is upright or decumbent, 150 to 400 mm tall and can form mats up to 1 m in diameter. Tiny, star-like, white flowers are borne on tall, stout stems in summer. Crassula capitella makes roots at the nodes even before they touch the ground.

Crassula capitella has five subspecies:

Crassula capitella subsp. capitella, mostly biennials with a single basal rosette, usually glabrous stems, tiny white flowers in unbranched spike-like inflorescences, in mid- to late summer.

Crassula capitella subsp. meyeri, a decumbent form that becomes woody at the base, with one to several rosettes and erect stems that are glabrous or sparsely hairy. It occurs only along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal in sandy soil, and bears tiny white flowers in unbranched spike-like inflorescences in late summer to winter.

Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa, a perennial shrublet with one, rarely a few rosettes, hairy stems and white flowers in an unbranched inflorescence in summer.

Crassula capitella subsp. sessilicymula, a perennial shrublet with a somewhat woody base, up to 400 mm tall. It bears tiny white flowers in mid-summer, and the inflorescence is usually branched from the base.

Crassula capitella subsp. thyrsiflora, a branching perennial shrublet producing several rosettes, which are pink-tinged rosettes at first and later the leaves become pagoda-shaped and turn red .That is why it is commonly known as ‘red pagoda’. It bears tiny white flowers in unbranched spike-like inflorescences in summer.

Conservation Status


Crassula capitella is not threatened in the wild, all sub species are assessed as Least Concern (LC) on the Red List of South African plants.

Distribution and habitat

Distribution description

Crassula capitella is indigenous to southern Africa, occurring in all the Provinces of South Africa, namely the Free State, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng. It is widely distributed in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape Provinces and it is also found in Botswana and northern Namibia.

Derivation of name and historical aspects


The name Crassula is derived from the Latin word crassus, meaning ‘thick’, which refers to the thickness of the succulent leaves. The specific epithet capitella, is derived from a Latin word capitellum, which means ‘small head’.



Its flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Crassula capitella, like all crassulas, has a metabolism that allows them to photosynthesize normally without losing much water through their leaves, known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. Instead of opening the stomata on their leaves to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis during the day, they do it at night, therefore, minimizing the loss of internal moisture to evaporation. This allows them to survive and thrive in dry regions or areas that experience regular droughts.

Crassula capitella roots are powdered and used to heal wounds.

Crassula capitella is often used in the garden as a focal point because of its red foliage colour. It is an excellent ornamental plant which is highly recommended for adding permanent colour in the garden. It can be used for edging, as filler, and it is also suitable for coastal gardens, and sunny rockeries. It is recommended as a water-wise plant. It is also a wonderful container plant.

Growing Crassula capitella

Crassula capitella can be propagated from small stem and leaf cuttings. The cuttings must be about 130 mm long and planted in a tray filled with the mixture of compost and washed river sand. Soil must be moist but not waterlogged, until the cutting show new growth. This will take about 4 to 6 weeks. Once the cuttings have rooted, water occasionally and ensure that it is watered deeply to reach the roots. Over watering and poor drainage of this plant can result in powdery mildew, fungus leaf sport, stem and root rotting.

Grow Crassula capitella in well-drained soil in a full sun or semi-shade for best leaf colouring. Water the plant lightly when the soil is dry, about once in two weeks. Fertilise with compost twice a year. The plant deteriorates after flowering which is a good time to prune and replant.

Crassula capitella can withstand frost but not a hard freeze. Frost damage usually appears as small brown dots on the leaves. In cold climates it is advisable to plant it in a container so it can be moved to a protected area during very cold weather. It grows well in full sun and partial shade.


  • Court, D. 2000. A revised Succulent Flora of southern Africa. Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Flora of southern Africa, accessed via POSA
  • Gordon, R. 2003. Crassula: a grower’s guide. Cactus & Co, libri, Italy.
  • Moffett, R. 2010. Sesotho plant and animal names and plants used by the Basotho. Sun Press, Bloemfontein.
  • Moroyi, A. & Gobolwelwe, K.E. 2014. Medicinal plants and traditional practices of peri-urban domestic garden of Limpopo Province. South Africn University of Pretoria Institutional Repository (online) Accessed 15 June 2016.
  • Notten, A. 2010-02. Crassula rubricaulis Eckl. & Zeyh. (Crassulaceae). PlantZAfrica. Internet 4 pp.
  • Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of South Africa: keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia 6. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Van Jaarsveld, E., Van Wyk, B. & Smith, G. 2000. Succulents of South Africa: a guide to the regional diversity. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
  • Wikipedia http// accessed 5 May 2016


Fergy Thema
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
October 2016

Plant Attributes:

Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial, Succulent

SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, Western Cape

Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer

Watch the video: Red Pagoda. Crassula Capitella - Beginners Guide to Maintain, Propagate and Stress

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