iPhoneOgraphy – 19 Jan 2016 (Day 19/366)
Sempervivum (U.S. sem-per-VEE-vum) is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plants in the Crassulaceae Family, commonly known as houseleeks. Other common names include liveforever (the source of the taxonomical designation Sempervivum, literally “always/forever alive”) and hen and chicks, a name shared with plants of other genera as well. They are succulent perennials forming mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. In favourable conditions they spread rapidly via offsets, and several species are valued in cultivation as groundcover for dry, sunny locations.
The name Sempervivum has its origin in the Latin semper (“always”) and vivus (“living”), because this perennial plant keeps its leaves in winter and is very resistant to difficult conditions of growth. The common name “houseleek” is believed to stem from the traditional practice of growing plants on the roofs of houses to ward off fire and lightning strikes. Some Welsh people still hold the old folk belief that having it grow on the roof of the house ensures the health and prosperity of those who live there. The plant is not closely related to the true leek, which belongs to the onion family.
Other common names reflect the plant’s ancient association with Thor, the Norse god of thunder, and the Roman Jupiter. Hence names such as “Jupiter’s beard” and the German Donnerbart (“thunder beard”).