House Leek (crassulaceoe)
The House Leek (Sempervivum tectorum), or never dying
flower of our cottage roofs, which is commonly known also as
Stone-crop, grows plentifully on walls and the tops of small
buildings throughout Great Britain, in all country districts. It is
distinguished by its compact rose-shaped arrangement of seagreen
succulent leaves lying sessile in a somewhat flattened manner, and
by its popularity among country folk on accoun
of these bland juicy
leaves, and its reputed protective virtues. It possesses a remarkable
tenacity of life, quem sempervivam dicunt quoniam omni tempore
viret, this being in allusion to its prolonged vitality; for which
reason it is likewise called Ayegreen, and Sengreen (semper,
History relates that a botanist tried hard for eighteen months to dry a
plant of the House Leek for his herbarium, but failed in this object.
He afterwards restored it to its first site when it grew again as if
nothing had interfered with its ordinary life.
 The plant was dedicated of old to Thor, or Jupiter, and
sometimes to the Devil. It bore the titles of Thor's beard, Jupiter's
eye, Joubarb, and Jupiter's beard, from its massive inflorescence
which resembles the sculptured beard of Jove; though a more recent
designation is St. George's beard.
Quem sempervivam dicunt quoniam viret omni
Tempore--'Barba Jovis' vulgari more vocatur,
Esse refert similem predictoe Plinius istam.
The Romans took great pleasure in the House Leek, and grew it in
vases set before the windows of their houses. They termed it
Buphthalmon, Zoophthalmon, and Stergethron, as one of the
love medicines; it being further called Hypogeson, from growing
under the eaves; likewise Ambrosia and Ameramnos. The plant
is indigenous to the Greek Islands, being sometimes spoken of as
Imbreke and Home Wort.
It has been largely planted about the roofs of small houses
throughout the country, particularly in Scotland, because supposed
to guard against lightning and thunderstorms; likewise as protective
against the enchantments of sorcerers; and, in a more utilitarian
spirit, as preservative against decay. Hence the House Leek
is known as Thunderbeard, and in Germany Donnersbart or
Donderbloem, from Jupiter the thunderer.
The English name House Leek denotes leac (Anglo-Saxon) a
plant growing on the house; and another appellation of its genus,
sedum, comes from the Latin sedare, to soothe, and subdue
The thick leaves contain an abundant acidulous astringent juice,
which is mucilaginous, and affords malic acid, identical with that of
the Apple. This juice, in a dose of from one to three drams, has
proved  useful in dysentery, and in some convulsive diseases.
Galen extolled it as a capital application for erysipelas and shingles.
Dioscorides praised it for weak and inflamed eyes, but in large
doses it is emetic and purgative.
In rural districts the bruised leaves of the fresh plant or its juice
are often applied to burns, scalds, contusions, and sore legs, or to
scrofulous ulcers; as likewise for chronic skin diseases, and
enlarged or cancerous lymphatic glands. By the Dutch the leaves are
cultivated with a dietetic purpose for mixing in their salads.
With honey the juice assuages the soreness and ulcerated condition
within the mouth in thrush. Gerard says: The juice being gently
rubbed on any place stung by nettles, or bees, or bitten by any
venomous creature, doth presently take away the pain. Being
applied to the temples and forehead it easeth also the headache and
distempered heat of the brain through want of sleep.
The juice, moreover, is excellently helpful for curing corns and
warts, if applied from day to day after they have been scraped. As
Parkinson teaches, the juice takes away cornes from the toes and
feet if they be bathed therewith every day, and at night emplastered
as it were with the skin of the same House Leek.
The plant may be readily made to cover all the roof of a building by
sticking on the offsets with a little moist earth, or cowdung. It bears
purple flowers, and its leaves are fringed at their edges, being
succulent and pulpy. Thus the erect gay-looking blossoms, in
contrast to the light green foliage arranged in the form of full blown
double roses, lend a picturesque appearance to the roof of even a
cow-byre, or a hovel.
 The House Leek (Sedum majus), and the Persicaria Water-pepper
(Arsmart), if their juices be boiled together, will cure a
diarrhoea, however obstinate, or inveterate. The famous empirical
anti-Canceroso nostrum of Count Mattaei is authoritatively said to
consist of the Sedum acre (Betony stone-crop), the Sempervivum
tectorum (House Leek), Sedum telephium (Livelong), the
Matricaria (Feverfew), and the Nasturtium Sisymbrium (Water-cress).
The Sedum Telephium (Livelong, or Orpine), called also
Roseroot and Midsummer Men, is the largest British species of
Stone-crop. Being a plant of augury its leaves are laid out in pairs
on St. John's Eve, these being named after courting couples. When
the leaves are freshly assorted those which keep together promise
well for their namesakes, and those which fall apart, the reverse.
The special virtues of this Sedum are supposed to have been
discovered by Telephus, the son of Hercules. Napoleon, at St.
Helena, was aware of its anti-cancerous reputation, which was
firmly believed in Corsica. The plant contains lime, sulphur,
ammonia, and (perhaps) mercury. It remains long alive when hung
up in a room. The designation Orpine has become perversely
applied to this plant which bears pink blossoms, the word having
been derived from Orpin, gold pigment, a yellow sulphuret of the
metal arsenic, and it should appertain exclusively to yellow flowers.
The Livelong Sedum was formerly named Life Everlasting. It
serves to keep away moths.
Doctors have found that the expulsive vomiting provoked by doses
of the Sedum acre (Betony stone-crop), will serve in diphtheria to
remove such false membrane clinging in patches to the throat and
tonsils,  as threatens suffocation: and after this release
afforded by copious vomiting, the diphtheritic foci are prevented
from forming again.
The Sedum Acre (or Biting Stone-crop) is also named Pepper
crop, being a cyme, or head of flowers, which furnishes a pungent
taste like that of pepper. This further bears the names of Ginger (in
Norfolk), Jack of the Buttery, Gold Dust, Creeping Tom, Wall
Pepper, Pricket or Prick Madam, Gold Chain, and Biting Mouse
Tail. It was formerly said the savages of Caledonia use this plant
for removing the sloughs of cancer.
The herb serves admirably to make a gargle for scurvy of the gums,
and a lotion for scrofulous, or syphilitic ulcers. The leaves are thick
and very acrid, being crowded together. This and the Sedums
album and reflexum were ingredients in a famous worm-expelling
medicine, or theriac (treacle), which conferred the title
Jack of the Buttery, as a corruption of Bot. theriaque.
The several Stone-crops are so named from crop, a top, or bunch
of flowers, these plants being found chiefly in tufts upon walls or
roofs. From their close growth originally on their native rocks they
have acquired the generic title of Sedum, from sedere (to sit).