Posted in Plants

Hobbit or Gollum?

Either way, I will get the other variant once we're sure.
Nothing like buying something and then finding out it might not be quite what the tag says it is!

I first learned about the “Hobbit” (Crassula ovata), a succulent, from a post made by Country Boy on his blog, Whosoever Will, May Come.  Being a fan of J.R.R.’s work, of course I wanted one.

Our favorite bakery nearby happened to reopen lately after changing their customer area layout to assist in social distancing, and we ordered a pickup from them.  We often do this to make sure we get what our favorites are, then maybe get a bit more depending on what’s still in the case when we arrive.

Their store overall has a bit of a “country store” vibe, with other offerings like local craftworks and foodstuffs, as well as some plants and Scandanavian items.  On the porch there was a table with a selection of succulents, and I immediately recognized one type, and chose among their offerings.  Since my partner is also of the Middle-earth fandom, we named it “Samwise”, after our favorite hobbit.

Then this morning, I started to do some research so I can do well by Samwise so he stays healthy for many years.  One of the first search results is a site I often use for info, Dave’s Garden, and low and behold, on his forum I find there is a bit of a common name confusion over this plant.  Worse, if you follow that link to read the post about it (which has links to older discussions on the same forum), other folks found conflicting info when they were researching it themselves.

Also according to that thread linked in the paragraph above, here are the C. ovata variants or synonyms–and I must admit I’m still a bit confused about when something is considered a variant or a synonym. (I also want to point out that over the course of my own research this morning, other sources have either less or even more types listed than what’s below.):

  • C. ovata ‘Crosby’s Compact’
  • C. ovata ‘Gollum’
  • C. ovata ‘Hobbit’
  • C. ovata ‘Hummel’s Red’
  • C. ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’
  • C. ovata ‘Obliqua’
  • C. ovata ‘Tricolor’
  • C. ovata ‘Variegata’

Ours is still fairly small, so despite my new found knowledge, I’m still on the fence about if indeed it is a “Hobbit” or a “Gollum”.  From looking at many pictures of both in a bit older states, the hobbit variant can start new bits with the “suction cup” finger like leaves, but will later develop to the more flat oval shape attributed to the hobbit variant.  Given that posters that researched this issue reported on Dave’s Garden forum found some images with both the curled and flat on the same plant…I don’t know what to think either!  If it turns out I bought a Gollum and not a Hobbit, I guess we’ll just have to change its name to Sméagol.

From what I’ve read across a few sources so far:

  • It is known to be toxic to:
    • cats
    • dogs
    • horses (Most folks don’t have horses, but worth noting.)
    • humans can have mild toxicity issues, in some cases even from skin contact
  • Originally from Africa, this is a popular houseplant in the U.S. due to the limited care it needs (hardy, low water needs, minimal overall maintenance).
  • Crassula ovata, commonly known as the jade plant, shares the “money tree” nickname with Pachira aquatica, a native to Central and South America, of which the houseplant variant is often really a similar species, P. glabra, which is also sold under the P. aquatica name.
  • The edges only get red if you keep them in strong sun.
  • If the plant experiences prolonged exposure to very strong sun, the green parts of the plant will turn yellow.  This is caused by the jade plant making pigments such as carotenoids to protect from harsh sunlight and UV rays.
  • Some sites advise keeping them in partial shade in very warm climes.
  • Even the tiny ones like mine will eventually grow much larger–up to 3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide.
  • Some folks shape them like bonsai trees, given their central stem support structure.
  • They can flower (star shaped whitish-pink) after maturity, at minimum it takes 3 years before flowers present.
    • To encourage flowering put it in a shorter lightspan cooler spot with no danger of frost, and water less to imitate native winter conditions.
  • They are easy to propagate because in the wild, vegetative propagation is the  plant’s main method of reproduction.
  • They should be repotted every 3-5 years, in sturdy pots to compensate for the weight of the branches and leaves as the plant gets over 6″.
  • They need well draining soil, some recommend using a bottom-holed pot.
  • There is a similar looking plant with smaller leaves known as a Portulacaria afra.
  • Insect foes:
    • spider mites
    • scale insects (mealybugs)
    • aphids, but they tend to only appear on the flowers
  •, a site that tries to verify all known names for plants, still has not decided on the legitamcy or illegitamcy of the status of the synonym Toelkenia ovata (Mill.) P.V.Heath for Crassula ovata (Mill.) Druce.  Both the Gollum and Hobbit fall under Toelkenia ovata among others.

If you own one, or have anything you’d like to share about this post, feel free to comment below.

Care to share thoughts on this?