It is a perennial herb, found on wood-borders, hedge banks, roadsides, rocky banks and in limestone pavement, often in very small but very persistent colonies. It also occurs as an uncommon ancient woodland plant, but sometimes fails to flower in this habitat.
Unfortunately this is another plant which has suffered from garden cultivated individuals ‘escaping’ into the wild and getting established and then interbreeding with the wild stock so that now we have a complete muddle of escapes, native and hybrid plants. Many people grow what is known as Ice plant in their garden, not just for its quite spectacular pink flowers but also because it is particularly liked by butterflies and bees. To tell the difference, ice plant has leaves which are arranged opposite along the stem whereas the wild Orpine has leaves which are alternate. They are also much narrower. You can see this in the photo to the left.
As I said I have only ever seen this plant in France and then there was just one clump of it growing in a hedge bank. The place where it was growing I drive past quite often and I always look out to see if it is still there. For about seven years I have never seen it, though it has to be said at 80Km/p/h I could easily have missed it, especially if it was not flowering. This summer ( August 2018 ) there it was again but this time not one clump but about 10 and dotted about along a 150 meter stretch of hedgerow. I suspect it has been there every year and I have just missed it. What I am certain of is that when I first saw it there was just one plant and now it has spread and as I said about 10 plants.
So I took some more photos and here they are.
For those of you in the Civray area the plant is growing on the road between Civray and Chapelle Baton and about 1 Km before the cross roads to Charroux and St Romain. On the left hand side if you are driving away form Civray.