The plump, early leaves of the Kalanchoe luciae plant prompt natural comparisons to pieces of jade. But with time in the sun and regular watering, this succulent undergoes a transformation. The leaves take on a bright red appearance, which inspired one among its many common names, "red pancakes." It is not the most flattering name, but it does provide a sense of the layered effect of the vibrant leaves.
The online archive, JSTOR includes an entry for Kalanchoe luciae R.-Hamet, which comes from the Transvaal in South Africa. The entry also mentions that this plant is part of the Crassulaceae family, as well as the Flora Zambesiaca collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. JSTOR is a worldwide collaboration among herbaria, libraries, museums, universities and other research institutions.
In her book, "Designing With Succulents," published in 2007, Debra Lee Baldwin describes a selection of Kalanchoe plants, including K. luciae with its blue-green leaves, shaped like paddles and edged in red. Baldwin makes the distinction from K. thyrsiflora, which also exhibits blue-green leaves. The leaves of K. thyrsiflora are shorter and broader than those of K. luciae. Another plant with blue-green leaves, but distinguishable from K. luciae, is K. marmorata or penwiper plant. This plant's oval leaves are blue-green in winter but pale yellow in summer. It is native to Ethiopia.
K. luciae is one of about 139 different species of Kalanchoe. It has numerous common names. In addition to red pancakes, K. luciae is known as paddle plant, paddle kelanchoe, desert cabbage and flapjack plant. It is a rosette-forming perennial succulent, according to the Shoot Gardening website. This plant exhibits pale yellow flowers during the spring.
The K. luciae species is endemic to the Greater St. Lucia Westland Park, which is about 150 miles north of Durban in South Africa. The park is a designated World Heritage Site and is among the most spectacular natural wetland sites of the African continent.
K. luciae is a good choice for a group display of succulents in a container garden. Other possible plants to consider for a container display that complement K. luciae include Sedum "Matrona," kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos spp.), sticks on fire euphorbia (Euphorbia tirucalli "Sticks on Fire") and Canary Island aeonium (Aeonium canariensis). Select simple, unadorned pots for such displays so the focus remains on the plants. Basic white porcelain or clay pots work well.