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Scab plant

By | December 22, 2017

This rubbery groundcover needs little water

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Nancy Norris
Common name: Scab plant
Latin name: Raoulia australis
Plant type: Groundcover
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-10
Cultural needs: Dry, well-drained soil, sun or part shade
Plant size: under 1″ high by 12″ wide
Raoulia (Ra-OO-lee-uh) admittedly has way too many vowels but it does sound better than “scab plant,” its common name. The silvery mat of rubbery, 1/8″ gray leaves proves that nature has some ingenious ways of adapting life to extreme conditions. Intolerant of wet feet, raoulia needs sandy or gravelly soil and excellent drainage, or the roots will rot. The area in which the sprinkler barely reaches will suffice for irrigation, or maybe up front as a conversation-starting lawn, where you’re sure to get folks feeling the odd, plastic-like mat. In the photo, Dan Riggs handily shows off a fisherman showing the comparison of height. In the wilds of New Zealand, these plants grow from under the mat to form what looks like a gray cushion, mounding somewhat to mirror a rock, and it looks great between stones. This alpine plant is also known as “vegetable sheep” or tutahuna by the Maori people. Insignificant yellow flowers will often cover the plant but are also adpressed to the leaves, so that the plant remains extremely low. A few buds are visible in the photo. Divide the plant and it will conquer, easily spreading much like sedums, although it is not succulent.
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