Crassula ovata (jade plant)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Impact: Economic
- Impact: Environmental
- Impact: Social
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Crassula ovata (Mill.) Druce
Preferred Common Name
- jade plant
Other Scientific Names
- Cotyledon lutea Huds.
- Cotyledon ovata Miller
- Crassula argentea Thunb.
- Crassula articulata Zuccagni
- Crassula nitida Schönland
- Crassula obliqua Aiton
- Crassula portulacea Lam.
International Common Names
- English: baby jade; cauliflower-ears; dollarplant; jade tree; jadeplant; jadetree; money plant; money tree
- Spanish: árbol de jade
- French: arbre de jade
Local Common Names
- South Africa: kerkij; kerky; plakkies
- Southern Africa: t’karkai; umxhalagube
- Sweden: paradisträd
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Crassula ovata is a large, much-branched, hairless and floriferous shrub from southern Africa. Commonly known as the jade plant or money plant, C. ovata has been grown as an indoor ornamental in Europe, North America, East Asia and practically worldwide for over a hundred years. It is also popular as a landscape plant in mild climates. Its popularity as an ornamental plant arises primarily from its ease of propagation by cuttings. It is this characteristic that has allowed it to escape into the wild and become weedy in some areas outside its natural range. Given the century or more in cultivation, ease of vegetative propagation and virtual worldwide distribution in homes and gardens, it is perhaps surprising that C. ovata is not significant as an invasive weed.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Rosales
- Family: Crassulaceae
- Genus: Crassula
- Species: Crassula ovata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Crassula is one of the most diverse succulent genera, varying morphologically from tiny annuals and aquatic species (such as the invasive C. helmsii) to the shrub or tree-like C. ovata. There are more than 300 species in the genus, of which approximately 150 are found in southern Africa. Previous classifications included the family Crassulaceae within the Rosales, but now this family is included in the order Saxifragales (Stevens, 2012); the Compendium taxonomic tree still remains to be updated in this respect.
The name Crassula is the diminutive of the Latin crassus, which means thick or fat, referring to the fleshy nature of the genus as a whole. The species name ovata means egg-shaped, referring to the shape of the leaves (Malan and Notten, 2005).
First described as Cotyledon ovata by Phillip Miller in the Gardening Dictionary of 1768, the species was transferred to Crassula ovata by George Druce in 1917 (Druce, 1917).
DescriptionTop of page
In its native habitat, C. ovata is a large, much-branched, compact, rounded, evergreen shrub, usually 1-1.5 m tall, sometimes up to 5 m, with glossy, dark grey-green, oval, succulent leaves and rounded heads of pink flowers in winter-spring.
Stems are erect, stout and gnarled, 30-50 cm, and up to 20 cm in diameter. Young bark is smooth and silvery; in older plants the bark peels in horizontal brownish strips. The branches are short, succulent, grey-green in colour, becoming brown and woody as they mature.
The leaves are cauline, sessile, 30-90 mm long and 18-40 mm wide, obovate to elliptic, with an entire margin, often with a horny red edge; they have a rounded apex with a distinct pointed tip. They are generally in >4 opposite pairs, with one pair arranged at right angles to the next, and they are clustered towards the ends of the branches. Old lower leaves are naturally deciduous.
The plant is covered in masses of sweetly scented, white tinged pink, star-shaped flowers in tight, rounded clusters during the cool winter months (June-August), produced in response to long nights. Pedicels are 8-12 mm. Flower parts are generally in fives. Sepals are erect, 1-2 mm, wide-deltate and acute. Petals are (5)7–10 mm, spreading, lanceolate to lance-oblong and acute. Fruits, which comprise 3-5 separate follicles, are oval, up to 6 mm long, dehiscent and hold 30-50 tiny seeds (van Wyk and van Wyk, 1997; Court, 2000; Malan and Notten, 2005; Mahr, 2010; Boyd, 2013).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
C. ovata is native to South Africa, where it grows in Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal and the Transvaal (Bramwell, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). In Eastern Cape it is fairly common from Willowmore to East London and northwards to Queenstown (Court, 2000). It is also found in Mozambique (Bramwell, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015) and Swaziland, where it is considered a nationally threatened non-CITES species due to its collection from the wild for the succulent plant trade (Fragoso et al., 1999).
Byalt (2011) reports C. ovata as adventive in Spain, while Verloove (2013) comments that it is sometimes seen as a garden escape in the Canary Islands. Individual specimens have also been observed in the wild in New Zealand, Australia and Mexico (iNaturalist, 2015).
The best documented instances of C. ovata as an invasive species are, however, from the USA. Although not on California’s list of noxious weeds, it is naturalized in warmer wetlands, coastal areas and in many canyons near urban areas in southern California (Hoyt, 2015). It persists from cultivation at the urban-wild land interface and at waste dump sites at elevations below 100 m (Boyd, 2013). It has been identified in the San Francisco area of northern California, as well as Monterey County, and in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties in the south (Calflora, 2015). Typically, sites where C. ovata has been identified include steep south-facing slopes, among dunes, canyon bottoms, along trails, on the edge of mesa and in fallow fields (Consortium of California Herbaria, 2015).
On Kauai, Hawaii, C. ovata has been found naturalized locally on cliffs with other succulents in secondary Leucaena thicket. A single specimen was collected in Hanapepe in Waimea district, on the Awawa Road along Hanapepe River, below Hanapepe Heights at 12 m elevation in 1993 (Lorence et al., 1995).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present, Localized||Native||Present in Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal and Transvaal|
|Spain||Present||Introduced||Reported as adventive|
|Mexico||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Individual specimens have been observed in the wild; Original citation: iNaturalist (2015)|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Naturalized||Naturalized on wetlands, coast and in urban areas of southern California, as well as San Francisco to the north.|
|-Hawaii||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Naturalized||Naturalized locally on cliffs. Single specimen collected in Hanapepe (1993).|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||Individual specimens have been observed in the wild; Original citation: iNaturalist (2015)|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||Individual specimens have been observed in the wild; Original citation: iNaturalist (2015)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
C. ovata has been grown beyond its southern African native range as an ornamental since the nineteenth century.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
As a highly valued and frequently traded ornamental species, widely available through the nursery trade, it is highly likely that C. ovata will be further introduced to new areas. It has the potential to spread rapidly and easily from leaves and pieces of stems that break off, root and grow.
HabitatTop of page
In its native range, C. ovata is a prominent component of valley thicket vegetation of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, found particularly on dry, rocky hillsides (Mahr, 2010). Known as Albany thicket, this habitat is dominated by grasses and mixed succulent communities of aloes and euphorbias, as well as other native shrubs and herbs (Bramwell, 2015). In the Eastern Cape it experiences frequent droughts, unpredictable rainfall patterns (ranging typically from 250 to 550 mm per annum) and a maximum temperature of 40°C. In arid coastal habitats, the presence of hydathodes on adaxial leaf surfaces may be important in absorbing water from coastal fog (Jones, 2011).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Arid regions||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Present, no further details||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number of C. ovata is 2n = 42 (International Crassulaceae Network, 2015).
Pollination of C. ovata is insect-mediated. The flowers have a faint, sweet scent and attract bees, wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies for pollination.
Physiology and Phenology
The presence of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) in C. ovata and other Crassula species allows plants to reduce water loss from leaves without limiting photosynthesis. With CAM, stomata are closed during the day but open at night when the carbon dioxide taken in is stored in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and the carbon dioxide released is re-used in the photosynthetic process. In this way, plants lose much less water yet can photosynthesize normally during daylight hours. In addition, under extremely dry conditions, stomata can remain closed at night and will re-cycle the carbon dioxide within cells (Malan and Notten, 2005).
In arid coastal habitats, the presence of hydathodes on adaxial leaf surfaces may be important in absorbing water from coastal fog (Jones, 2011).
C. ovata is an important model species for the study of CAM regulation and stomatal opening, and there are numerous research papers on these aspects; see for example, Loucks and Ownby, 1978; Rustin et al., 1988; Nose, 1992; Kawamitsu et al., 2002.
It is popularly believed that C. ovata plants can live for decades under cultivation, and according to Aspen (2015), even up to 100 years.
C. ovata plants are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and humidities, and may even tolerate light frost, but will be killed by freezing conditions. Although they are succulent plants, they do need water, and prolonged drought can result in dwarfing, foliage spotting, leaf drop and death (Mahr, 2010).
In the Eastern Cape of South Africa it experiences frequent droughts, unpredictable rainfall patterns (ranging typically from 250 to 550 mm per annum) and a maximum temperature of 40°C.
Outdoors in the USA, C. ovata can grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 10A to 11, tolerating some winter cold (to -1.1ºC); prolonged cold, however, is usually fatal (PIER, 2005). C. ovata can grow in partial shade, but it needs sun for flowering. Overexposure to direct sun or heat can scorch the leaves and lead to leaf drop (Hoyt, 2015).
Ideally, C. ovata prefers mildly acidic (pH 6-6.5), dry, well-drained soil. It tolerates various soil types, including loamy, sandy, acidic, neutral and slightly alkaline. It tolerates wind, salt and coastal conditions, but is humidity intolerant (PIER, 2005). Costello et al. (2003) consider its salinity tolerance to be low to intermediate.
ClimateTop of page
|B - Dry (arid and semi-arid)||Preferred||< 860mm precipitation annually|
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||250||550||mm; lower/upper limits|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Armillaria mellea||Pathogen||not specific|
|Calonectria pteridis||Pathogen||not specific|
|Fusarium oxysporum||Pathogen||not specific|
|Pseudoidium kalanchoës||Pathogen||not specific|
|Stemphylium bolickii||Pathogen||not specific|
|Thanatephorus cucumeris||Pathogen||not specific|
|Thaumatotibia leucotreta||Herbivore||not specific|
|Vryburgia amaryllidis||Herbivore||not specific|
|Vryburgia brevicruris||Herbivore||not specific|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
According to the 1984 Index of Plant Diseases of Florida (Alfieri Jr et al., 1984), C. ovata, grown as an ornamental, is susceptible to infection by representatives of 10 fungal genera (Oidium, Alternaria, Ascochyta, Bipolaris, Cercospora, Corynespora, Diplodia, Fusarium, Phyllosticta and Pythium), as well as 3 specific fungal species (Alfieri Jr et al., 1984; Farr and Rossman, 2015).
In addition, Braun et al. (2003) recorded the presence in Germany of Oidium kalanchoës [Pseudoidium kalanchoës] for the first time on C. ovata, while Kiss (1999) reported a powdery mildew caused by an Oidium species for the first time in Hungary. Ortu et al. (2013) identified a new forma specialis of Fusarium oxysporum infecting C. ovata in northern Italy.
C. ovata has few insect pests, but in South Africa it has been identified as a wild alternative host for Thaumatotibia leucotreta [Cryptophlebia leucotreta] (false codling moth), which may have implications for C. ovata in the management of the pest in citrus orchards (Kirkman and Moore, 2007). As a domestic and greenhouse plant, C. ovata is also prone to attack by sap-sucking mealybugs (Pseudococcidae) worldwide (Mahr, 2010) and as such can act as a dispersal vector for exotic mealybug species. For example, Vryburgia amaryllidis, the lily bulb mealybug, and V. brevicruris, the short-legged mealybug, are often intercepted on plants entering the south-eastern region of the USA where they are not as yet established pests (Hodges et al., 2005).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Seeds are dispersed by the wind.
Pieces of stem and even single leaves which have been dislodged from plants by animal or human activity can produce roots and grow into new plants.
C. ovata has been introduced worldwide as an ornamental pot plant.
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Yes||Verloove (2013)|
|Garden waste disposal||Can survive in waste dumps||Yes||Boyd (2013)|
|Horticulture||It is transported around the world as an ornamental||Yes||Yes||Mahr (2010)|
|Nursery trade||Collected from wild for illegal succulent trade||Yes||Yes||Fragoso et al. (1999)|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Human health||Positive and negative|
Impact: EconomicTop of page
In the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Kirkman and Moore (2007) recently identified C. ovata as one of 8 wild alternative hosts for Thaumatotibia leucotreta (false codling moth), a serious pest of citrus orchards, which may have economic implications for pest control in the citrus industry in South Africa.
Impact: EnvironmentalTop of page
Impact on Habitats
As shown by the Australian/New Zealand Weed Risk Assessment adapted for Hawaii (PIER, 2005), the risk of becoming a nuisance weed there is very low (score -4). This result could be extrapolated to other areas, considering that given its almost worldwide distribution and relatively long duration under domestic cultivation, there are no reports of the species becoming widely naturalized.
Impact: SocialTop of page
C. ovata has a positive social value as popular ornamental plant, with aesthetic values as both a house plant and bonsai specimen.
However, C. ovata is also reported to have toxic effects on both humans and animals. In a study of plant poisonings in the USA, and southwestern Ohio in particular, Petersen (2011) found that C. ovata was among the 12 most common species causing human plant poisoning following ingestion of leaves, particularly by children. Leaves have also been reported as potentially toxic to dogs and cats when ingested, causing vomiting, ataxia, slowing heart rate and depression (UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, 2015). Exposure to C. ovata sap can lead to contact dermatitis (Nelson et al., 2007).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Abundant in its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Causes allergic responses
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
C. ovata is an integral part of the worldwide ornamental succulent plant market, where vast numbers of individual plants are sold annually. It is most often grown as a pot plant, but is grown outdoors under suitable climatic conditions. It is a popular subject for bonsai, and cultivars differing in leaf colour, form and size have been available for many years. Unfortunately, demand for the plant has resulted in illegal collection from the wild for sale to the succulent plant trade, for example in Swaziland (Fragoso et al., 1999).
In southern Africa, the roots of C. ovata are a traditional food source of the Khoi and other tribes; roots are grated, cooked and eaten with thick milk. The leaves are also used medicinally: boiled in milk, they are a remedy for diarrhoea; used to treat epilepsy and corns; and used as a purgative (Malan and Notten, 2005).
In South Africa, the subtropical thicket, of which C. ovata is a major component, is a very valuable, palatable and nutritious vegetation type for wild animal grazing (PIER, 2005). The leaves are a favourite food for tortoises (Malan and Notten, 2005).
Uses ListTop of page
- Potted plant
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
In South Africa, C. ovata can be confused with the very similar Crassula arborescens. However, the latter occurs only in the Little and Central Karoo and has a distinct waxy bloom on its leaves; in addition, its leaves are blue-grey and almost spherical (Malan and Notten, 2005; Mahr, 2010). In Hawaii, C. ovata can be distinguished from C. multicava and C. sieberiana, two species already classed as naturalized on the islands, by its larger habit, larger leaves, and differences in leaf and flower morphologies (Lorence et al., 1995).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
The invasiveness of C. ovata needs more research to determine whether it has the potential to become a problem in habitats similar to those of its native range in South Africa, such as in California.
ReferencesTop of page
Alfieri Jr SA, Langdon KR, Wehlburg C, Kimbrough JW, 1984. Index of plant diseases in Florida (revised). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, Bulletin 11:1-389.
Aspen K, 2015. Garden Guides: Medical uses for a jade plant. Santa Monica, CA, USA: Garden Guides. http://www.gardenguides.com/135776-medical-uses-jade-plant.html
Boyd S, 2013. Crassulaceae: stonecrop family [ed. by Jepson Flora Project]. Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California, Berkeley, Jepson eFlora. http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/get_IJM.pl?tid=81912
Bramwell A, 2015. Garden Guides: Crassula jade plant. Santa Monica, CA, USA: Garden Guides. http://www.gardenguides.com/139174-crassula-jade-plant.html
Braun U, Cunnington JJ, Brielmaier-Liebetanz U, Ale-Agha N, Heluta V, 2003. Miscellaneous notes on some powdery mildew fungi. Schlechtendalia, 10:91-95.
Calflora, 2015. Taxon report 10821: Crassula ovata. Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkeley, CA, USA: The Calflora Database. http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-calrecnum=10821
Consortium of California Herbaria, 2015. Consortium of California Herbaria. Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California, Berkeley. http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/get_consort.pl?taxon_name=Crassula%20ovata
Costello LR, Perry EJ, Matheny NP, Henry JM, Geisel PM, 2003. Abiotic disorders of landscape plants: a diagnostic guide. Richmond, CA, USA: University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 203 pp.
Court D, 2000. Succulent flora of southern Africa: revised edition. Rotterdam, Netherlands: AA Balkema, 301 pp.
Druce GC, 1917. Report for the Botanical Society and Exchange Club of the British Isles, 4.
Farr DF, Rossman AY, 2015. Fungal databases, systematic mycology and microbiology laboratory, ARS-USDA. Washington DC, USA: ARS-USDA. http://nt.ars-grin.gov/fungaldatabases/index.cfm
Fragoso G, Gillett H, Bishop R, 1999. Succulent plants in trade from the wild: analysis of conservation status and international trade. Cambridge, UK: World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 169 pp.
Hodges A, Hodges G, Buss L, Osborne L, 2005. Mealybugs & mealybug look-alikes of the southeastern United States. Washington DC, USA: USDA-CSREES, 113 pp.
Hoyt R, 2015. Problems growing Crassula ovata. SFGate Home Guides. San Francisco, CA, USA. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/problems-growing-crassula-ovata-28106.html
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International Crassulaceae Network, 2015. Crassula ovata (Miller) Druce, 1917. Switzerland: International Crassulaceae Network. http://www.crassulaceae.ch/de/artikel?akID=31&aaID=2&aiID=O&aID=2738
Jones LA, 2011. Anatomical adaptations of four Crassula species to water availability. Bioscience Horizons, 4(1):13-22.
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PIER, 2005. Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/wra/pacific/crassula_ovata_htmlwra.htm
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ContributorsTop of page
23/03/15 Original text by:
Andrew Praciak, Carne, Wexford, Ireland
Distribution MapsTop of page
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