Native plants of the Mediterranean Islands have adapted to survive the long, hot dry summers and the short cool winters. Since conditions may be quite stressful, plants need to be hardy and drought resistant. One of the plant genus which thrives in challenging conditions of drought, thin soils and harsh environments, is the Stonecrop (Sedum).
Like all succulents, the stonecrop is able to store water in their foliage for use during times of drought. Another specialised strategy for dealing with hot dry climates is that they respire only at night to avoid loss of moisture during the day when it is much hotter.
There are about 53 Stonecrop species native to Europe, two-thirds of which are confined to Southern Europe and countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Maltese Islands, about 6 species of Stonecrop are recorded. Amongst the most common species which catches attention because of its red carpet-like patches in exposed rocky areas, is the Azure Stonecrop (Beżżulet il-Baqra, Sedum caeruleum). The origin and habitat of this plant species extends from the Western Mediterranean region to North Africa. The leaves of this low-lying succulent plant are narrow, thick and oblong-shaped, usually tinted red according to the amount of sunlight reaching the plant. Flowers are produced between March and April, pale-blue or whitish in colour. It often grows in small temporary depressions within rocky areas which fill with rainwater during the winter months. As an annual therophyte, the Azure Stronecrop completes its life cycle in a short period when conditions are favourable. After setting fruits, it dries up and survives summer in seed form.