Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Blooming now in our Cactus and Succulent House—the right-hand wing on the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory— is the purple form of the tree aeoneum (Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’). It stands taller than most of the plants around it and is hard to miss—the flower spikes are large and very yellow.
The tree aeonium is native to Gran Canaria (one of the Canary Isles) where, despite the long dry summers there, it remains green and fresh-looking, even when neighboring plants might have turned brown or lost their foliage in an effort to conserve moisture. The genus name Aeonium comes from the Greek word aionios (eternity), not through any expectation that the plant will live forever, but because of this evergreen habit.
Our purple form (‘Atropurpureum’) has dark-red, shiny leaves and these provide a striking contrast to the tight, conical clusters of yellow flowers.
The branches of the plant that produce a flower stalk this year will die back in the coming weeks, leaving only the more youthful branches, which will continue to grow for future years.