UBC Botanical Garden Horticulturist Jackie Chambers is the author and photographer behind today’s entry. Thanks Jackie!
I never came across any wolves while looking for plants in El Barranco de los Lobos (“The Valley of the Wolves”) but I did find some lovely shoes.
In Spanish, the common name for this little plant is Zapatitos de la Virgen, which literally means “Shoes of the Virgin”. I spotted these “little shoes” clinging to a rock face while working in the Andalucia region of Southern Spain (read more about the diverse landscapes of this region).
Sarcocapnos enneaphylla is an unusual member of the poppy family. It is endemic to central and eastern Spain, as well as the eastern Pyrenees. This low growing perennial is a chasmophyte — a plant adapted to growing in crevices, be it natural rock faces or cracks in the walls of old buildings.
The species name enneaphylla means nine leaves or leaflets, and is appropriate as the blue green leaves are often 2 or 3 times ternatisect (or cut into three lobes). Each leaflet is 6-7mm in diameter. The foliage can be quite fleshy, and sunken in to form a shallow cup shape. The terminal leaflet is often reniform (kidney-shaped). The leaves are alternate along green fleshy stems, which can reach up to 15cm long, and are sometimes woody towards the base.
Flowering may occur thought the year; however the main flush is in the spring. Flowers range from white and yellow to pale pink and can be 8-10 mm long. The petals fuse into a tubular shape and create a small spur at the back of each flower. Fruit is inconspicuous and spherical (2-3mm.). This website has some detailed photographs.
Sarcocapnos enneaphylla can be very “plastic” — this is not a reference to any artificial components, but rather to the range in physical appearances. Members of the same population can look very different depending on the conditions they grow in. Individual plants can range from 4 to 30cm in diameter. Features such as petiole length, leaf texture and leaf fleshiness can vary greatly depending on the amount of sun exposure.
In the photographs above, the plant was growing in an exposed sunny site. As a result, the growth is very tight and compact, and the leaves are quite fleshy. Other photos of plants in more shaded locations will depict loose, spreading growth and thinner leaves (examples – browse for Sarcocapnos).