Plants in the Crassulaceae, or stonecrop family, are characterized in part by succulent leaves (crassus means “thick” in Latin).  About 1,400 species can be found throughout the northern hemisphere and in southern Africa. In Iceland there are five species (possibly a few more). I found three.


Rhodiola rosea
roseroot stonecrop
Icelandic: burnirót
seen at Dynjandi


This is a real showstopper of a plant, growing up to a foot tall, with thick, pale leaves contrasting a tight cluster of bright yellow flowers. Although widespread in Iceland, it cannot withstand grazing by sheep, so it’s found only in areas sheep can’t reach. I only saw one specimen, growing at the base of a waterfall.

Roseroot stonecrop is native to North America, from Hudson Bay east into Greenland, as well as Fennoscandia and Russia. In the US it can be found in a few New England counties and in the mountains of North Carolina. There are about 50 species of Rhodiola worldwide; three can be found n the US, but none in Maryland.


Sedum villosum
hairy stonecrop, purple stonecrop
Icelandic: flagahnoðri
seen at Mt. Esja and Sólheimajökull


This species is native to Iceland, where it’s widely distributed, as well as Greenland, Canada, and Fennoscandia. It’s easily distinguished from the other Icelandic Sedum species by the pink flowers (the other species have yellow flowers). This picture doesn’t give a good sense of scale, but this is a belly flower. Those rocks next to the plant are thumbnail-size.


Sedum annuum
annual stonecrop
Icelandic: skriðuhnoðri
seen at Ísafjorður and Sólheimajökull

This species is not seen in the US or Canada, but is found in Greenland, Jan Mayen, and Fennoscandia. In Iceland it grows in the warmer areas in the south and east of the country, as well as some parts of the Westfjords, the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and the general area around Akureyri. Seen here, on black volcanic rubble at the snout end of a glacier, it’s quite striking.


Neither of these Sedum species is found in Maryland; for similar plants you can look to Allegheny stonecrop and wild stonecrop. The latter is one of my all time favorites, so I’ll re-post a picture:


I don’t find them crass at all.

2 thoughts on “Thick

  1. Love your blog, Elizabeth. Great work. I just wanted to add some remarks about the distribution of many plants of Iceland. Because of the similar habitats a lot of them grow in the Alps too, e.g. in my home country Switzerland. Like Rhodiola rosea, Sedum villosum, Sedum annuum, also Silene suecica and others, but you mention only Fennoscandia for the native range in Europe. So for the honour of Switzerland it had to be mentioned:-) You can by the way find on the around 3000 species growing in our small country. If you might visit once, please let me know in advance. Maryland’s flora looks absolutely fantastic – a must to go there once!

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