ATROPURPUREA  (Baker) Morren, 1874  (engl./ fr.)



Synonyms :

Echeveria sanguinea Hort.

Cotyledon atropurpurea  Baker (1870)


Series Racemosae


Type : Not designated. There is a specimen at Kew (K000442587), prepared Jan 29 1877, Hort Kew, fide N.E. Brown E. atropurpurea Baker.


Lectotype : Saunders, Refugium Botanicum, pl. 198, 1870.


Origin unknown.



First Description as Cotyledon atropurpurea by Baker in Saunders Refugium Botanicum 3, pl. 198, 1870 :


Stems glabrous, attaining a height of four to six inches and a thickness of an inch.


Leaves about twenty, aggregated in a dense rosette, obovate, spathulate, the largest four to five inches long by two inches broad three-quarters of the way up, acute, the base broad for the genus, the texture moderately thick, the upper surface especially dark purple with a glaucous bloom.


[Inflorescence] stem erect, about a foot high without the raceme, its leaves [bracts] close, much reduced. Raceme twenty- to twenty-five-flowered, five to six inches long when fully expanded by less than two inches broad. Bracts [bracteoles] linear, the lowest half an inch long. Pedicels three-eighths to half an inch long, spreading horizontally or in the lowest a little deflexed.


[Flowers]  Sepals subequal, patent, linear-lanceolate, two lines long. Corolla bright red, half an inch deep, decidedly pentagonal, the divisions acute, the outer row of stamens inserted about half-way down.


Nearest E. canaliculata, but the leaves much broader and spathulately narrowed in the lower half, the colour characteristic, and the calyx and corolla much smaller.


W.W. Saunders added : " I received this interesting and beautiful species [ ... ] from Mons. De Smet of Ghent. I am not aware of its native country."


Four years later Ed. Morren published it as Echeveria atropurpurea (La Belgique Horticole 1874, p. 156) describing it as a “superb plant, … corolla white at base and red above” - as shown by the plate illustrating Baker's description.


Note :

1. Baker’s E. atropurpurea without any locality data has not necessarily been a species imported from Mexico; as it has been provided by the nursery of De Smet, one of the famous hybridizers of his time, it might as well have been a hybrid. At any rate the plant is no longer in cultivation in Europe, it is very probable that it disappeared before the end of the 19th century.

However the name "atropurpurea" has survived and has been resurrected every time an echeveria with dark red leaves turned up - regardless the fact that it did not correspond to the description. And this is still going on.


2. According to E. Walther, for a short time E. atropurpurea has also been in cultivation in the US what he substantiates by the publication of a coloured plate of this plant, grown by Rose. However this plant is by no means Baker's E. atropurpurea, what suggests that the latter has never reached the US (E. Walther, ECHEVERIA, plate 10, p. 232).


3. In 2010 H. David Jimeno-Sevilla and Amparo Albalat-Botana published an article with the heading : "Echeveria atropurpurea (Baker) E. Morren (Crassulaceae), encontrada silvestre despues de 140 años de su descripción" (Bol. Soc. Latin. Carib. Cact. Suc. 7(3), 2010).


The authors claim to have found E. atropurpurea  in tropical deciduous forest in central Veracruz and they compare it with E. carnicolor. Evidently they have failed to study the original description carefully and to consider the lectotype, otherwise they would have noticed that the plant they describe differs from Baker’s E. atropurpurea in several respects :

- a much taller stem

- longer and narrower leaves

- a longer inflorescence

- red instead of white and red flowers

- and - most important - in its papillate leaves !

The leaves of Baker’s E. atropurpurea have a glaucous bloom, that means they cannot have been papillate, and Baker compares them with E. canaliculata, not with E. carnicolor.


What they had found and wrongly regarded as E. atropurpurea was in fact the plant Jimeno-Sevilla & Cházaro two years later, in 2012 described as E. uxorum


The name E. atropurpurea belongs to the plant described by Baker. It cannot be used for a plant not corresponding to Baker's description. 


Link to the French translation.


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