Aichryson tortuosum (Gouty Houseleek)

Aichryson tortuosum (Gouty Houseleek)

Scientific Name

Aichryson tortuosum (Aiton) Webb & Berthel.

Common Names

Gouty Houseleek


Aeonium tortuosum, Aichryson pulvinatum, Aichryson pygmaeum, Aichryson radicescens, Macrobia tortuosa, Sempervivum pulvinatum, Sempervivum pygmaeum, Sempervivum radicescens, Sempervivum tortuosum

Scientific Classification

Family: Crassulaceae
Subfamily: Sedoideae
Tribe: Sedeae
Subtribe: Sedinae
Genus: Aichryson


Aichryson tortuosum is a succulent shrublet with dense, tortuous branches and hairy, green leaves tinged purplish-red. It grows up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall. Branches are hairy, often glabrous below, and up to 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) in diameter. Leaves are up to 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) long and up to 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) wide. Flowers are star-shaped, deep yellow, up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) across, and appear in winter. This species is very variable, and the true, unhybridized specimen is rarely seen in cultivation.

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USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Aichrysons grow as understory plants in the endemic laurel and pine forests of the Canary Islands and prefer to grow in slightly shaded moist soil with plenty of humus. They tolerate a cool, frost-free winter kept fairly dry. Some species are annuals or biennials, but the shrubby perennials also need to be restarted from cuttings regularly to be at their best. Many species produce volunteer seedlings around themselves after flowering.

These succulents are very tolerant of mixed conditions and will tolerate considerable shade as well as full sun. Given the right conditions, these plants will provide an incredible show of yellow flowers. Grow these plants hard with very little fertilizer because they can flower themselves to death. Aichrysons have a very structural trunk and make excellent bonsai subjects.

In winter, they require a rather sunny spot inside at moderate, cool temperatures. If they become too large, plants can be cut back. Cuttings will easily root within a few days. These ornamental dwarf plants are excellent pot plants and will thrive in any partially shaded spot at cool temperatures, e.g., on a window sill.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Aichryson.


Aichryson tortuosum is native to the Canary Islands.


  • Aichryson tortuosum var. bethencourtianum


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Aichryson tortuosum (Gouty Houseleek) - garden

Origin and Habitat: Aichryson tortuosum is indigenous to the Canary Islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), Spain.
Altitude range: Up to 700 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: This species is confined to the arid regions of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, which are the two driest of the Canary Islands. It grows tucked into crevices on the vertical sides of permanently windswept volcanic cliffs and at many places along the island shaded, northern ridges.

Description: Often misspelled (tortulosum), Aichryson tortuosum is a small, very ornamental, perennial shrublet 10-15(-20) cm tall with dense tortuous branches, hence the specific name. It has crowded, fleshy and pubescent (downy) leaves in dense rosettes looking like a miniature Aeonium lindleyi. The small yellow flowers in a lax inflorescence typically have seven or eight petals. This neat little plant is the old and long-known Sempervivum tortuosum. It is quite variable and, as for most members of Aichryson, the true, unhybridized species is rarely seen in cultivation.
Stems: c. 5 mm thick, hairy, often glabrous below, Branches woody, tortuous, divaricate.
Leaves: Highly succulent, 10-12 long, 4-6 mm wide, 2-3 mm thick, blade broadest above the middle, obovate, rounded, sessile, densely glandular-hairy, viscid (scent resinous), dark green, tinged purplish-red or brown.
Inflorescence: From short laxly leafy shoots, few-flowered Pedicels to 7 mm.
Flowers: 7- to 8-merous, 9 - 12 mm in diameter. Sepals glandular hairy (hairs up to 0.5 mm). Petals 5 - 6 mm, elliptic, acuminate, aristate, deep yellow, tips reflexed, margins often finely ciliate.
Seeds: Dust like.
Related species: Aichryson bethencourtianum Bolle is very similar to Aichryson tortuosum, so similar that an expert in this genus as Bañares Baudet (2008) considers it to be, a subspecies the latter (Aichryson tortuosum ssp. bethencourtianum (Bolle) Bañares & S. Scholz). They are distinguished from each other primarily by the excretion of a viscid substance from the dense hairs of A. tortuosum, which has sessile leaves, as opposed to A. tortuosum ssp. bethencourtianum, which has indistinctly petiolate leaves and longer, non-glandular hairs. They occur sympatrically on Fuerteventura, but only A. tortuosum has reported occurrences on Lanzarote.

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

  • Aichryson tortuosum" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Crassulaceae/33680/Aichryson_tortuosum'> Aichryson tortuosum (Aiton) Webb & Berthel. : (subsp. tortuosum) has sessile leaves with short glandular hairs excreting a viscid substance. Distribution: Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
  • Aichryson tortuosum subs. bethencourtianum (Bolle) Bañares : has indistinctly petiolate leaves and longer, non-glandular hairs. Distribution: Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain.

Aichryson tortuosum var. tortuosum, Mirador del Bosequicillo, Lanzarote. Photo by: Amante Darmanin
Aichryson tortuosum var. tortuosum, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote. Photo by: Amante Darmanin
Aichryson tortuosum var. tortuosum, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote. Photo by: Amante Darmanin
Growing habit at Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote Photo by: Amante Darmanin
Aichryson tortuosum var. tortuosum, Eremita de las nieves, Lanzarote. Photo by: Amante Darmanin

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Cultivation and Propagation: Aichryson tortuosum is a most delightful miniature winter growing succulent that tend to go dormant in the summer and look a little tired sometimes, but they perk up again in the fall. Summer is the natural dormant season for this species in its native land. However, don't let the plants go dry for any extended time. Suitable for indoor culture it can be grown in shade, but needs sun to bring out full colour.
Soil: It requires gritty well drained potting mix.
Water requirements: Water deeply but infrequently. Plants are allowed to thoroughly dry in-between waterings. During the winter months restrict water to about once a month, or just enough to keep the foliage from shrivelling.
Exposure: Position in part sun in a sheltered spot, but the bright light enhances the rich red hues of the foliage, but prefers light shade to shade in summer.
Hardiness: Needs protection from severe winter frosts (Hardy to -2°C or a little less for short periods), over winter under glass in all but the mildest of gardens.
Propagation: Aichryson tortuosum is easily propagated by cuttings in the spring, just cut the rosette with a piece of stem and plant it. Time to take cuttings: April to July.


Aichryson is a genus of about 15 species of succulent, subtropical plants, mostly native to the Canary Islands, with a few in the Azores, Madeira and Morocco, and one in Portugal.

The species of Aichryson are not frost-resistant. They are related to Sempervivum, Jovibarba, Greenovia, Aeonium and Monanthes, readily seen in their similar flowers.

The genus name comes from a contraction of the Greek "aei" (always) and "chrysos" (gold). [1]

Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants. The hybrid cultivar Aichryson × aizoides var. domesticum 'Variegatum' is a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. [2] [3]

Recent phylogenentic studies of Crassulaceae indicate that Aichryson is closely related to Monanthes and Aeonium (both genera are also largely endemic to the Canary Islands). Two other genera of Crassulaceae that have many-parted (polymerous) flowers (Sempervivum and Jovibarba) are not closely related to the three Canary Island genera. [4] [5] [6] [7]

On the Canary Islands, the center of species diversity seems to be the island of La Palma.

Relationships within Aichryson were investigated by Fairfield et al. (2004) [Plant Systematics and Evolution 248: 71–83]. They found that the five subspecies of A. pachycaulon were not each other's closest relatives (monophyletic) and additional species may need to be erected after additional study.

  • Aichryson bethencourtianum
  • Aichryson bollei
  • Aichryson divaricatum
  • Aichryson laxum
  • Aichryson palmense
  • Aichryson porphyrogennetos
  • Aichryson tortuosum (gouty houseleek)
  • Aichryson villosum

Other species recognized by Nyffeler in Eggli 2004 are:

  • Aichryson brevipetalum
  • Aichryson dumosum
  • Aichryson pachycaulon (five subspecies have been recognized)
  • Aichryson parlatorei
  • Aichryson punctatum

Recently named species include:

  1. ^ Eggli, Urs Newton, Leonard E. (2004). Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. p. 4. ISBN978-3-540-00489-9 . Retrieved 11 November 2018 .
  2. ^
  3. " ' Aichryson × aizoides var. domesticum 'Variegatum ' ". Royal Horticultural Society . Retrieved 27 February 2020 .
  4. ^
  5. "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF) . Royal Horticultural Society. November 2018. p. 4 . Retrieved 27 February 2020 .
  6. ^ Ham and 't Hart. (1998). American Journal of Botany, 85: 123–134
  7. ^ Mort et al. (2001). American Journal of Botany, 88: 76–91
  8. ^ Mes and 't Hart. (1996). Molecular Ecology, 5: 351–363
  9. ^ Mort et al. (2002). Systematic Botany, 27: 271–288

This Crassulaceae-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.


  • Aichryson bethencourtianum
  • Aichryson bollei
  • Aichryson divaricatum
  • Aichryson laxum
  • Aichryson palmense
  • Aichryson porphyrogennetos
  • Aichryson tortuosum (Gouty Houseleek)
  • Aichryson villosum

Other species recognized by Nyffeler in Eggli 2004 are:

  • Aichryson brevipetalum
  • Aichryson dumosum
  • Aichryson pachycaulon (five subspecies have been recognized)
  • Aichryson parlatorei
  • Aichryson punctatum

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