Succulent plants are the camels of the vegetable world, storing up food and water to be used not on a rainy day, but during a period of prolonged drought. This may last for a few weeks or, in extreme cases, plants have survived without rainfall for over a year. This water can be stored in either theor the of the plants, depending on the type. This gives rise to two distinct types of succulent plant, succulents and succulents. The stem succulents usually have no leaves (except sometimes very small ones on young growth, soon falling off), and the green tissue of the stems takes over the work of the leaves to manufacture the food. Without leaves, the plants can reduce much of the water loss. The stems are usually very thick and full of water storage tissue, and are mostly either cylindrical or spherical in shape, sometimes being deeply ribbed. The ribs enable the plant to expand or contract as it absorbs or loses water.
Leaf succulents have plump, rounded leaves full of water storage tissue. They are often coated with wax, meal or hairs, helping to reduce water loss from their surfaces. Often these succulents have fleshy stems as well, but the leaves play the most important part in food manufacture.
The, all belonging to one family, are the most popular group of succulent plants, but many other plant families have succulent members. Among the families whose succulent species are grown are the Crassulaceae, Aizoaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Liliaceae, and Agavaceae.
Thefamily is native to America; plants found in Europe and elsewhere have been introduced at some time in the past. There are three distinct types of plant, the pereskias, the epiphytes and the desert cacti, and these require different treatment because of their differing ‘home’ conditions. Except for the pereskias, they are stem succulents, having either no leaves or small temporary ones. Cacti are not all spiny plants, some being strongly armed while others are quite spineless. All cacti have areoles, small pincushion-like structures scattered over the stems, Spines, when present, off-shoots, and branches come from these areoles. This is the way to distinguish a cactus from another stem succulent, such as a euphorbia, which does not have areoles.. Also all cactus have the same general design, while those of other succulents differ enormously between the various families.
The pereskias must have a brief mention here, as they are so different from other cacti. They are obtainable from the specialist nurseries, but not likely to be found in the local florist. They are interesting in that they are the only cacti which are not really succulents, and have normal leaves, rather like those of a privet, but possess spines and, of course, the characteristic areoles. Thebear a superficial resemblance to the wild rose. They are bushes and climbers from the tropical regions of north and central America, where they are used as hedging plants, and can be grown as pot plants, but to be really successful they need to be bedded out in a large , where they can scramble up a wall or over a support. They need a winter temperature of about 50°F (10 C) and to be kept moist all the year round. Most growers regard them as curiosities, and they are not very common in collections.
By contrast, the epiphytes are grown in this country very commonly, many being sold as florists’ plants. In their native American tropical rain forests, the epiphytic cacti are found growing in the debris caught up in the branches of trees. They grow among the other epiphytes, ferns, epiphyllums. In these latter, the flowers are usually carried on the sides of the stems. Owing to the beauty of their flowers, epiphyllums have received a lot of attention from the horticulturists. There are enormous numbers of beautiful hybrids on the market, in all colours except blue, while the wild species are not often grown as greenhouse plants owing to their large size and the difficulty of flowering them in cultivation. These hybrid epiphyllums, together with the short stemmed rhipsalidopsis and schlumbergeras are the ones in this group most often grown as pot plants. All require the same basic treatment., and , which festoon the trees in these tropical regions. Although there is no shortage of water where the plants are found, the pockets of humus they are growing in dry out very quickly. Epiphytic cacti have no leaves, but flattened, slightly succulent stems, sometimes incorrectly called ‘leaves’. These stems may consist of short segments, as in the familiar ‘Christmas cactus’ (schlumbergera), the flowers appearing on the ends of the segments, or the stems may be long and strap-like, as in the
They need a good, porous soil; J.I.P.2 with some additional leaf mould or peat and grit is suitable. Leaf mould is ideal if it can be obtained as it more closely resembles the natural soil of the forests. The soilless composts are also very suitable for these and other cacti, but for the epiphytes, the lime-free type ofis best. It helps to add a teaspoon of bonemeal to each pot of compost. should be done annually. These cacti will survive winter temperatures as low as 41°F (5 C), but flower much better if kept a little warmer. They should be kept moist all the year round. In fact, it is best to forget that they are cacti and treat them as normal pot plants. When in bud, epiphytes can be fed once a fortnight with a tomato-type potassium fertilizer.
Because these epiphytic cacti grow among trees, they do not need full sunlight. They make very successful house plants if grown on an east-facing window-ledge, where they will receive the early morning sun, but are in shade during the heat of the day. They grow rapidly, and when a plant outgrows a 6-in, pot, it should be re-started. A stem is cut from an epiphyllum, or a few segments from the schlumbergeras and rhipsalidopsis. Theis allowed to dry for two or three days, and then potted up. This drying period for cactus and other succulent is always carried out to prevent rot from spreading into the fleshy stems. As they are succulents, they do not wilt during this period as other plants would. The best time of the year for taking is April-May, although it is quite possible at any time during spring and summer.
The desert cacti are the spiny tall or round plants that we associate with the American deserts. Actually many are found growing on rocky mountain sides and in grassy areas, as well as in the sandy regions of Mexico and South America. They all need the maximum amount of sunlight to flourish and flower freely. For this reason they do not make such good house plants as the epiphytes. If a greenhouse is not available, they should be kept on a south-facing window-sill, and preferably stood outdoors from May to September.
A minimum winter temperature of 41°F (5°C) is adequate for most desert cacti. A well-drained compost is essential. If about a third extra grit or sharp sand is added to J.I.P.2, this will make a suitable compost.
Even the grit is not essential if the compost is not allowed to cake. Alternatively, a soilless compost may be used. Since the food content of the soil does not last forever, the plants should be repotted annually.
Many people seem to think that cacti need no water! This is far from the truth, although they will certainly survive a period of dryness (after all they are adapted to do just this). This means that it is not necessary to worry too much while you are on(although will suffer). But without water they will just survive, not grow, and the plants should be kept more or less continually moist between April and October. The should be reduced after this and they should be left dry during December and January, if kept in a greenhouse. Watering can be restarted gradually as the light improves in February. If the plants are wintered in a heated house with a very dry atmosphere, more water will be needed during winter to prevent excessive shrivelling. Indoors, the ideal winter spot is an unheated room, but this may not always be possible. The reason for keeping them dry at this time is that if they grow in the poor light of winter, they are likely to become distorted and may well rot the following year. Also, flowering is very much affected by the previous winter’s treatment.
Desert cacti are mostly very easily reproduced from cuttings. Some plants form offsets which can be removed and potted up, after the usual few days drying period. Some clustering plants will have rooted ‘pups’ (offsets) around the base of the parent; these can be removed and potted up directly. If the plant does not form offsets, a section of stem can be cut off and potted up after drying for about a week. The base of the parent plant can be kept as it will often sprout again, forming a number of offsets around the cut top. The best time to do all this is, as before, between April and June.
The other succulents fall into several different families, and since the cultivation varies somewhat for each, it is best to give a brief description of them. Crassulaceae This family is very large, consisting of leaf succulents with almost world-wide distribution. The most beautiful members of the family are the echeverias of the New World and the crassulas of South Africa. Other attractive plants are the aeoniums and sedums, with plump, often highly coloured leaves, arranged in rosettes. All should be kept slightly moist all the year round.of these plants is difficult to obtain, but they can mostly be easily reproduced from cuttings which need little or no drying before up. Some species can even be grown from leaves, just laid on the soil, when they will , and send out new shoots.
This is a family of leaf succulents found mainly in Africa. They vary from small shrubs to plants about 1 in. high consisting of one pair of very succulent leaves. One of the main characteristics of this group is that most of them have distinct resting periods, corresponding to the dry season of their native lands. During this period, from about October to March, they must be kept completely dry.
The old leaves will gradually shrivel away. Watering should not be re-started until the new leaves appear in spring. Popular plants are the autumn growing conophytums, glottiphyllums and pleiospilos and the summer growing lithops and faucarias. This group is quite easily raised from, or heads of clustering plants may be removed, dried for a few days and potted up. June to July is a good time for this.
This contains only one group, the euphorbias, commonly grown, but this is an immense group of world-wide distribution, many of which are not succulents. The succulent plants are most commonly found on the African continent. These are stem succulents, although during the growing period some species produce leaves on the new growth. Euphorbias vary enormously in size, some reaching tree-like proportions, closely resembling the giant cacti. Others are small, clustering plants only a few inches high. All have one thing in common, an irritating, sometimes, milky sap. Euphorbia flowers are usually small and insignificant, but often have a sweet lime-like scent. In some species the male and female flowers are on separate plants. Euphorbias are difficult to from cuttings, but may be readily raised from , although it needs to be fresh for success.
This family contains a large number of leafless stem succulents from the dry regions of the Old World. Where they occur, there are no bees and the flowers are pollinated by flies. To be attractive to flies, the flowers often have an unpleasant smell to us. However, the flowers are usually large (sometimes immense) in shades of reddish-brown or yellow, often covered with hairs. Stapelias are probably the best known in this group. We also have duvalias and carallumas. They are easily raised from seed, which germinates quickly but has a tendency to damp off equally quickly. Cuttings may be taken from June to August. They are best just laid on the soil and may be watered after about a week.
This family contains not only the lily bulbs of our gardens but a group of leaf’ succulent plants which are found mainly on the African continent. The most interesting plants are the aloes, gasterias and haworthias.
Aloes can reach a large size and bear a superficial resemblance to the American agaves, with their long strap-like leaves. There are also a number of small plants which are very attractive and will survive on a windowsill. Aloes have long flower stems, but the rosette does not die after flowering.
Gasterias and haworthias are found growing in the shade of grasses and small shrubs in their native land. This makes them useful small plants for growing on window sills or under the greenhouse staging.
All the plants which form clusters may be reproduced by removing off-sets. Otherwise they must be raised from seed.
This last family dealt with here, includes yuccas, sansevierias and agaves. It is the agaves that interest the grower of succulents. These are rosette-shaped plants with tough, strap-like leaves. Although many are far too large for the average grower, there are small species that are ideal for the living-room, because the very tough leaves enable these plants to withstand the dry atmosphere. Many people are familiar with the large, rather coarse specimens of Agave americana , found growing along the Mediterranean coast. These plants have at some time been introduced; the agaves are native to the southern U.S.A., Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America.
Agave flowers are borne on stems many feet long, but only on very old specimens, and after flowering, the rosette dies, but by then there are usually offsets growing around the base of the plant. These can be removed and used for. Agaves are very easily raised from seed.
The cultivation of the other succulents is very similar to that of the desert cacti; any differences have been mentioned.. They should be given plenty of water in summer and kept either dry or slightly moist in winter, depending on where they are kept. A suitable compost is J.I.P.2 plus about a third extra grit or sharp sand, with the exception of the Aizoaceae which are better with rather more grit, up to 50%. They all need the maximum amount of sunlight, particularly the Aizoaceae, which are not really suitable as house plants, but need the sunniest part of the greenhouse. A minimum winter temperature of 41°F (5°C) is adequate for most succulents although the stapelias and other Asclepiadaceae appreciate a little more. Raising from seed Cacti and other succulents can be raised from seed in much the same manner as any other greenhouse plants. A good seed compost should be used; either J.I.P.1. or soilless. After thoroughly moistening the compost, theare just scattered on the surface. The is placed in a plastic bag to conserve moisture. A temperature of 70°-80°F (21-27C) is needed for germination. If a is available, early spring is the best time to , otherwise it is necessary to wait until later when the weather warms up.
Small cacti and other succulents can be used to make attractive bowl gardens, but care should be taken to include plants with the same growing and resting periods and light requirements. Bowl gardens are not merely ornaments, but contain living plants, and must be given the light and water needed.
Pests and diseases
Cacti and other succulents do not suffer greatly from these, if they are carefully looked after. Small cotton-wool-like patches indicate mealy bugs which can
be controlled with a malathion spray (but do not use malathion on Crassulaceae). Brown spots on stems (particularly epiphyllums) are usually due to too low winter temperatures, too much nitrogen in the compost, or otherwise faulty cultivation. Cold, damp conditions can cause plants to rot.
25 Cacti and Other Succulents
Chamaecereus silvestrii (peanut cactus) is found growing among grass and low bushes in Western Argentina. The short, prostrate stems are freely branching, and covered with short, stiff white spines. The stems are pale green in winter, but turn violet in the hot sun. The furry brown buds open in May or June to large scarlet flowers. This cactus is hardy if kept dry, and may be wintered in an unheated cold frame. Propagation is particularly easy by removing branches and rooting them.
Cleistocactus strausii from Bolivia, forms a tall, silvery column, which may reach a height of 5 ft. With age it branches from the base. The stems are covered with short white spines. Old specimens will flower; the narrow flowers are red and are formed at the top of the stem. However, if confined to a pot it will be many years before this plant becomes too large. It is hardy if kept dry in winter.
Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel cactus) comes from the deserts of central Mexico. Younghave tubercles which carry stout golden spines. As the plant gets larger the tubercles merge into ribs. Mature specimens of this cactus are about a yard across, but are very ancient as it takes about ten years for a specimen in cultivation to make a diameter of 6 in. The small yellow flowers are seldom produced in this country, due to poor light intensity.
Echinocereus knippelianus is native to Mexico. The dark green, almost globular stem is about a in. across. It is divided by five ribs which carry weak, white spines. The pink flowers are produced profusely in May. This is a slow-growing plant and should be watered with care. Like most echinocereus, it is hardy if kept dry.
Echinocereus pectinatus is found growing in central Mexico. It has a thick stem about 3 in. in diameter, branching from the base, and covered very neatly with short white spines, arranged in a comb-like pattern. The pink flowers are 3-4 in. across and in some specimens are sweetly scented. The flowering period is about June. This is a slow growing cactus which is hardy in winter if kept dry; it needs particularly good.
Echinopsis rhodotricha from Argentina, is an oval plant which in the wild can reach a height of 32 in. In cultivation it will flower when 6 in. high; the long-tubed, white fragrant flowers are about 6 in. long and 3 in. across. They are produced freely during the summer. They open in the evening. The stem is dark green, divided into ribs with stout brown spines. This is a fast growing plant and is hardy if kept dry. The best known is E. eyrieseii, but most specimens on the market are probably hybrids.
Echinopsis ‘Golden Dream’ is a Lobiviax Echinopsis hybrid, a vigorous and hardy plant. It has a globular plant body, up to 6 in. across, divided into ribs with short brownish spines. Off-sets form around the base. The golden-yellow flowers appear in summer; they have long tubes and are 2 to 3 in. across and slightly scented.
Epiphyllurn hybrids are examples of the ‘jungle’ type of cactus. They make largish plants with strap-like stems, often 2 or 3 ft. long. The flowers are 3 or 4 in. across, and appear on the edges of the stems, usually opening in the evening. Various un-named cd hybrids are common; among the named specimens are `Appeal’ (red), ‘Bliss’ (orange), `Cooperi’ (white and scented), `Exotique’ (purplish), ‘Gloria’ (orange-red) and ‘Sunburst’ (orange).
Ferocactus acanthodes from southern California makes a cylindrical plant about 9 ft. high and 3 ft. across in nature. But such plants are very old. Seedlings and young plants make delightful pot plants; they are globular and have bright red spines, but are unlikely to reach flowering size in cultivation. The flowers, when produced are yellow and small for such a large plant, about 2 in. across.
Gymnocalycium bruchii is a miniature cactus from Argentina which eventually clusters from the base. The globular plant body is divided by twelve ribs, bearing neat white spines, covering the plant. The pale pink flowers open in May; these are over 1 in. long, and since the flowering plant may be less than 1 in. across, it often cannot be seen for flowers. This is a very easy plant to grow and flower.
Gymnocalycium baldianum is sometimes incorrectly named as G. ventunanum. This native of Uruguay forms a plant body 3 in. across; it has nine ribs with yellowish spines. Old specimens form off-sets. The flowers, produced in May, are usually deep red but occasionally specimens are found with beautiful intense pink flowers.
Gymnocalycium pla tense, a native of Argentina, is a globular plant, eventually 3 in. or more in diameter. The plant body is greyish-green and is divided into twelve or fourteen ribs. These carry short whitish spines. White flowers are freely produced in early summer. This is a very hardy, easily grown plant.
Hamatocactus setispinus is native to Mexico and southern Texas. It is a globular plant which can be as much as 5 in. across. Very old specimens cluster from the base. The stem is dark green and divided into thirteen ribs. The large satiny flowers are borne on top of the plant continuously through the summer. The petals are deep yellow with a red base. Again a very easy plant to grow and flower.
jajoiana grows in Argentina at altitudes of up to to,000 ft. It is a cylindrical cactus, slow-growing, 2 or 3 in. thick forming a few off-sets. The plant body is dark green. The spines on the new growth are red but lade to brownish with age. The deep red flowers open during the summer; they are red with an almost black throat.
craigii is a native of Mexico. It is a globular plant, branching with age. Like all mammillarias, the plant body is covered with small protuberances (tubercles). “l’hese have yellowish-brown spines on their tips. The small, deep pink bell-like flowers tiirm a circle around the top of the plant in spring.
Vlammillaria spinosissima is a Mexican plant. It is very variable; the spines may be white, yellow, brown or red. One of the most attractive forms is the variety sanguinea, with red-tipped spines. The cylindrical stem is dark green; it may remain solitary, or cluster. The purplish-red flowers open during the summer, and may be followed by bright red berries.
prolifera is a widely distributed cactus, found in Texas, the West Indies and Mexico. It clusters freely, forming a ‘cushion’ of small heads about 1 in. across, covered with fine white spines. Creamy flowers appear in late spring and are often followed by orange-red berries, which are said to taste like strawberries. The heads are knocked off very easily, so the plant must be handled carefully.
Notocactus haselbergii grows wild in southern Brazil. It forms a silvery ball, about 4 in. across, covered with fine white spines. The tomato-red flowers are carried on top of the plant in early summer. This is a hardy cactus,, but does not flower as a . Flowering-size plants are about 2 ½ in. across.
Notocactus mammulosus, a native of Uruguay and Argentina, forms a large, globular plant, with stout yellowish spines. With age it forms off-sets from the base. White, woolly buds appear at the top of the plant and open to golden-yellow flowers in early summer. It flowers profusely and is hardy. The flowers are self-fertile and large quantities of dark brownare formed.
Opuntia microdasys is a Mexican plant, and to keep it unmarked, the winter temperature should be at least 45°F (7°C). It has flat stem segments (or pads) up to about 6 in. long. These are dotted with little collections of fine barbed hairs (glochids), which may be white, yellow or dark reddish-brown, depending on the variety. These glochids (characteristic of the opuntias) can irritate the skin. This cactus is grown for the beauty of its form and rarely flowers as a pot-plant. Given a freerun in a greenhouse bed, it produces yellow flowers in May.
Opuntia basilaris spreads from northern Mexico to the southern U.S.A. It has pads about 8 in. long of a beautiful bluish colour, dotted with collections of dark brown glochids. Branches form from the base, producing a large clump. The flowers are red, but it rarely flowers as a pot plant. There is a particularly beautiful variety, cordata, with heart-shaped, bluish-purple pads. This mostly branches from the base and remains one or two pads high.
Rebutia calliantha var. Krainziana is an example of the compact, very free-flowering South American rebutias.’It will bloom when only 1 in. across. The globular stems are dark green, neatly covered with short white spines. The large orange flowers are produced in rings around the base of the plant in May. This is one of the easiest of the small cacti to flower and quite an old plant will only fill a 4-in. pot, but will be covered with flowers. Rebutia miniscula var. violaciflora, from Argentina, is found growing About to,000 ft. above sea level. It is a small clustering plant, and will flower when about 1 in. across. It is a light green in colour with short ginger spines. The intense magenta pink flowers are produced from the base of the plant in April and May. They are self-fertile, and if left undisturbed, the plant will eventually be surrounded by dozens of little self-sown seedlings.
Rhipsalidopsis rosea is an epiphyte from the forests of southern Brazil. It is a small shrub about 9 in. high, consisting of dozens of stem segments about 1 in. long, with short bristles at the ends. The stems vary from green to dark red. The pale pink, bell-shaped flowers, about 1 in. across, cover the plant during May. After flowering the plant will look shrivelled, but after a few weeks it will come into growth again.
Schlumbergera `Konigers Weihnachtsfreude’ is one of the many schlumbergera hybrids flowering in the winter which are often called Christmas cactus. It is an epiphyte and forms a shrub, becoming pendent with age, and can reach massive proportions if not broken up and re-started. The glossy green stem segments are up to about t1 in. long. The intense cerise-pink flowers cover the plant in the winter months, but not necessarily at Christmas. The common Christmas cactus, formerly known as Zygocactus truncatus, is very similar. It is now correctly called Schlumbergera `Buckleyi’, though still often listed under Zygocactus.
Other Succulent Plants
Aeonium domesticutn(Crassu/aceae) The aeoniums are native to the Canary Islands and are almost hardy. Beautiful specimens of these small shrubs may be found in the gardens of Cornwall. A. domesticum has almost circular leaves covered with fine hairs; the yellow flowers are produced in summer. Aeoniums may be grown permanently as pot plants or planted out in a rock garden for the summer, and repotted and stored under the greenhouse staging in winter.
Agave filifera (Agaraceae), a native of Mexico, is one of the smaller growing agaves suitable for pot cultivation. It forms a rosette about 2 ft. across, consisting of long, narrow dark green leaves, with white threads along the edges. Agaves only flower when old, and the flowering rosette dies. But new ones are formed at the base of the old plant. The flower stem is over 6 ft. high and the flowers are greenish.
Agave parvillom (Agavaceae) is a rare plant in the wild, found in a few localities in southern Arizona and Mexico only. It forms a rosette about 8 in. in diameter, ideal for a pot plant. The dark green leaves have white markings and marginal threads. The flower spike is about 3 ft. high and the flowers are reddish. New rosettes are formed at the base of the old plant after flowering.
Aloe jucunda (Lihaceae) is a miniature aloe, native to Somalia. The small, flat rosettes are about 4 in. across and the bright green leaves have attractive white spots, and small teeth along their edges. The pink flowers, carried on a long stem, open in spring. This aloe clusters freely and the individual heads can be used to start new plants.
(Liliaceae) (partridge-breasted aloe) a native of Cape Province, South Africa, forms a stemless rosette, about ft. high – the dark green leaves have attractive white markings. The plant produces many off-sets which are attached to the parent plant by underground stems. The small, orange, bell-shaped flowers are carried on a stout stem in March.
Caralluma europaea (Asclepiadaceae) is found around part of the Mediterranean coast, and also in South Africa. The thick leafless stems are greyish-green. This is a summer growing plant and the tiny flowers are stemless and produced in clusters. They are yellowish with brownish markings. The seeds are carried in long horn-shaped pods. Conophyturn flavum (Aizoaceae) comes from South Africa. The small plant bodies are green and rounded, freely clustering. The bright yellow flowers are usually produced in September or October, when they open in in the afternoon. The plant should be watered when the old leaves have shrivelled, usually about August, andshould be continued until November.
Conophytum salmonicolor (Aizoaceae) is a native of Namaqualand, South Africa. The green plant body is about 1 in. high and consists of a pair of united leaves. The plant clusters quite readily, and with age, a woody stem becomes evident. Its apricot-coloured flowers appear early in June. It should be watered when the old leaves have shrivelled (usually around the end of June) until the end of October.
Crassula falcata (Crassulaceae) spreads from Cape Province to Natal in South Africa. Because of its striking red flowers, it is a popular florist’s plant. It is large, growing to about 1 ft., with bluish-grey leaves. The scarlet flowers are carried on a stout stem. It can be propagated from.
Crassula teres (Crassulaceae) is a miniature plant from South-West Africa. The broad leaves are closely packed around the stem to form a short column. With age the plant clusters to form attractive. The tiny white flowers are stemless. It should be grown in a very open compost, placed in a sunny and not over watered.
Duvalia radiata (Asclepiadaceae) is a smallish plant from Africa. The short, thick stem are prostrate and without leaves. The reddish-brown flowers are small and fleshy, but the horn-shaped seed pods are large and packed with numerous seeds, attached to tiny ‘parachutes’. The growing and flowering period is summer.
Echeveria derenbergii (Crassulaceae) (the painted lady) is a dwarf plant from Mexico. It forms an almost stemless rosette about 3 in. across, which is soon surrounded by numerous off-sets. The leaves are plump and pale green with a white waxy coating. The reddish-yellow flowers open in the spring.
Echeveria hoveyi (Crassulaceae) from Mexico, forms a short-stemmed loose rosette which soon produces side shoots, making an attractive cluster. The long leaves are grey-green with pink and cream stripes. The colouring varies with the seasons; it is at its most vivid in the spring. Full sun and not too much water help to maintain a good colour.
Euphorbia aggregata (Euphorbiaceae) from Cape Province, is a shrub about 1 ft. high. It is a freely branching plant which soon clusters. The leafless stems are over 1 in. thick. The insignificant flowers are carried on thorn-like stalks which persist long after the flowers have died. This gives the whole plant a ‘spiny’ appearance, rather like a clustering cactus. The growing period is summer.
Euphorbia beaumieriana (Euphorbiaceae) comes from Morocco, where it can reach a height of 6 ft. It is, however much smaller inin collections. It is a cactus-like plant with ribs and spines. Like all euphorbias, it has milky sap, painful or even dangerous in the mouth or eyes.
Euphorbia obesa (Euphorbiaceae) is one of the more unusual plants from Cape Province, and is protected by the South African government. It consists of a single spherical or slightly cylindrical stem, about 4 in. across, without leaves and reddish brown in colour. It is divided into blunt ribs. The small, stemless yellow flowers appear all the summer; they are sweetly scented. The male and female flowers are carried on separate plants.
Faucaria tuberculosa (Aizoaceae) is native to South Africa. Very young plants are stemless, but with age, a woody stem is formed. When this stem becomes too obvious the plant should be re-started from cuttings, leaving a small piece of stem to each rosette. The thick triangular dark green leaves have small teeth along their edges and small knobbly protuberances on the upper surface; they are about 1 in. long. Golden flowers are produced in the autumn. The plant should be kept slightly moist throughout the year.
Gasteria maculata (Ldiaceae) is a South African plant with long tongue-shaped leaves arranged in two rows. These are dark green in colour, with white markings. Off-sets are produced by the plant, and these can be left to form a group, or removed and potted up individually. The reddish flowers are carried on a long slender stem.
Glottiphyllurn arrectum (Aizoaceae) is from Cape Province, South Africa. The soft, tongue-like leaves are bright green in colour and about 2 in. long. Young plants are almost stemless, but with age a woody stem appears. It is then best to cut up the clump, keeping a small piece of stem to each head. The large flowers are golden-yellow and almost hide the plant’s body in September and October. This plant has a short growing period and should only be watered from the beginning of July to the end of October.
Haworthia limifolia (Liliaceae) grows wild in South Africa. The stemless rosettes are about 4 in. across and consist of very dark green triangular leaves with ridges running across them. The plant forms many off-sets, attached to the main stem by underground runners. The tiny white flowers are shaped like narrow bells and are produced on a very long, slender flower stem in summer.
Lithops alpina (Aizoaceae) is one of the pebble plants. This little native of the Karroo, South Africa, closely resembles the stones among which it grows. The conical body is composed of one pair of stemless leaves with a fissure between them. These leaves are pale brown with dark brown markings. The bright yellow flowers appear from the fissure between the leaves, usually in June. Lithops are summer growing plants and should not be watered until the old pair of leaves has completely withered. The growing period is usually between April and September; the rest of the year the plants should be kept dry. The plant gradually clusters, forming a clump.
Lithops marmorata (Aizoaceae) is very similar to the above. The leaves are greyish-green with pale grey markings. The white flowers open in September.
Pleiospilos bolusii (Aizoaceae), from Cape Province, South Africa, is another of the mimicry plants, the thick, triangular leaves looking like pieces of granite. There is one pair of thick purplish-green leaves, dotted with green. Old plants have woody stems, but younger plants are almost stemless. When the stem is obvious, it may be cut at about in. from the leaves and the plant re-started. The growing period is from late summer to autumn and the plant should be kept dry until the old pair of leaves has shrivelled completely. The large golden flowers open in October.
hintonii (Crassulaceae), like many of the beautiful tender sedums, comes from Mexico. It is a fairly recent discovery and consists of low rosettes, rapidly clustering. The furry leaves are egg-shaped and bluish grey in colour. The white flowers appear in the winter, and, although an easy plant to grow in summer, it is very prone to rot in the flowering period. It should not be watered at this time, and if possible should be wintered in the dry atmosphere of a room.
hirsuta (Asclepiadaceae), a typical ‘carrion plant’ is found growing in Cape Province, South Africa. The thick velvety stems are leafless and about 9 in. high. This is a summer growing plant and the large flowers start to appear about mid-summer. These are five-petalled, yellowish and densely covered with brownish hairs. Although these flowers have little odour to us, they are most attractive to flies, which may lay their eggs in them. The maggots hatch out and promptly die, for although the flowers may look like carrion, the larvae cannot live on them. In nature, the flies cause of the flowers. The seed pods are large and horn shaped.