TOUR OF THE SUCCULENT WORLD.
This guided ramble through the fantastic world of Cacti and Succulents will introduce you to many corners of this interesting world.
Because our Library is sequenced using the botanical Latin name, people can easily overlook related genera if they are new to this hobby. How many new Echeveria fanciers are aware of Dudleya and Graptopetalum, let alone Sedum suaveolens? So read this text to get clues as to other genera you might like.
Succulents are plants from about 50 major plant families where specialised, enlarged water-storing cells have evolved to get these plants through periods of some water difficulty e.g. lack of water, or salty water.
One of those 50 families is the Cactus family, and ALL of its members are succulents.
The Cactus family (CACTACEAE) is native to North and South America and some offlying islands like West Indies and Galapagos and contains over 1500 species.
Padded cacti or Prickly Pears are found under Opuntia and Consolea, and closely related are Cylindropuntia (Cholla), Pterocactus and Tephrocactus.
Columnar cacti are often hardy outdoors and spectacular in a landscaped garden. They are known also as cereoids and include Arrajadoa, Carnegia, Cereus, Cipocereus, Cleistocactus, Espostoa, Haageocereus, Helianthocereus, Monvillea, Myrtillocactus, Oreocereus, Pachycereus, Pilosocereus, Pygmaeocereus, Stenocereus, Trichocereus and many others.
Sometimes cereoids become mutated or fasciated and change their form. These monstrose or crested forms can be very sculptural. They occur in many genera.
The Echinopsis Group of South American cacti are known for their large and often brilliantly coloured flowers. The plant itself can be either columnar, small and globular, or massive and barrel-like. Generally they are the EASIEST of all cacti to grow, and are happy outdoors also. Many hybrids have been produced (Paramount, Schick etc). The wild species are closely related to each other, and migrate across generic boundaries at a taxonomist抯 whim. Find them under Echinopsis, Helianthocereus, Lobivia, Soehrensia, and Trichocereus.
Globular cacti include Astrophytum, Copiapoa, Coryphantha, Echinofossulocactus, Eriosyce, Gymnocalycium, Mammillaria, Rebutia, Notocactus, Sulcorebutia, and numerous others.
Rare Mexican miniatures fall into the genera, Ariocarpus, Aztekium, Epithelantha, Gymnocactus, Ortegocactus, Strombocactus, Turbinicarpus etc. They are very slow-growing, unusual plants appreciated by connosieurs
Barrel Cacti are the larger globular cacti and are found under Echinocactus, Ferocactus (Mexico and USA), and Soehrensia (South America).
Leuchtenbergia has a unique shape hard to place with any other cacti, although it is related quite closely to Ferocactus.
Vining cacti. These scramble and climb through foliage, often bearing large nocturnal flowers. Hylocereus has large edible fruit. Also Harrisia, Monvillea, and Selenicereus
Epiphytic cacti. Often with strap-like stems and sometimes large showy flowers. You will find them under Epiphyllum, Marnieria, Rhipsalis (includes Hatiora), Schlumbergera, Zygocactus. Coromandel Cacti grows very few of the so-called Epi Cacti as they constitute a whole field unto themselves and we don抰 have a whole field to spare.
Euphorbia Family. Sometimes similar in appearance to cacti with their upright columnar stems and spiny arms are the Euphorbias. But they take many other forms too and can constitute a whole collection in themselves. Closely related in the Euphorbia Family and also with milky sap are Monadenium, Synadenium, Pedilanthus, and Jatropha. All have the potential to be toxic if the sap makes contact with sensitive skin, eyes etc. So BE CAREFUL with these plants!
The Agave Family are mostly from the American continents and West Indies. Agave includes some 200 species. Sometimes considered a subgenus within Agave is Manfreda. Beaucarnea and Nolina are very close together and Calibanus with them also. Other, mostly large-growing easy landscape subjects are in Dracaena, Furcraea, Beschorneria, and Yucca. From Africa comes Sansevieria, decorative plants whose charms are still being discovered in horticulture. Our New Zealand cabbage trees (Cordyline spp) are also in this family, but not considererd succulent.
Asphodelaceae. Superficially similar to Agave is the Aloe genus, but Aloes flower regularly without dying afterwards. There are about 400 different species, many of them distinctive and beautiful. Quite closely related and usually smaller are Astroloba, Bulbine, Gasteria, Haworthia, and Poellnitzia.
Bulbs Bowiea, Haemanthus, Lachenalia, Ledebouria, Massonia, Scilla, and Veltheimia are also South African, sometimes only semi-succulent, and sometimes ephemeral in that they die back to a hidden bulb for part of the year.
The Crassula Family occurs throughout the areas our succulents come from. Crassula itself is mostly African, and so is Adromischus, Cotyledon, and Tylecodon.
To the east, Madagascar is the home of most of our Kalanchoes. Aeonium and Greenovia are from the Canary Islands and Sempervivum is European.
The Sedums we grow are mostly American/Mexican. Mexico is also the home of most Echeveria species, although the hundreds of hybrids have been bred in various countries. Very similar to Echeveria is Dudleya, from the Baja Peninsula and sometimes stunningly white. Graptopetalum have smaller rosettes with delicate multi-branched inflorescences and speckled star shaped flowers. Tacitus is now often considered as a Graptopetalum, despite its showy bright pink flowers. Pachyphytum is another Mexican with thick leaves often powdery white or grey in colour and fleshy pendant flowers.
Lump Plants. The succulent part of these plants is their weird water-storing lumps. They occur in a number of families and in many tropical countries. The Cucumber Family (Cucurbitaceae) is especially rich in Lump Plants (or caudiciforms as they are more properly known) with Cephalopentandra, Corallocarpus, Gerrardanthus, Ibervillea, Kedrostis, Momordica, Zygosicyos.
But the most famous Lump of all is Testudinaria, the Tortoise Back Plant. Nearly all true Lumps have a vine which grows rapidly during the growing season but dies back, leaving the lump to survive the dry season.
Other genera of Lump Plants are Adenia, Brachystelma, Ceropegia (some), Fockea, Matelea.
Another group of fat plants are the Pachycauls where stem and branches are unusually thickened to store water. (Pachycaul means 搕hick stem?. Cyphostemma juttae epitomises this form. Also placed here are Adenium and Pachypodium, both related to the frangipani tree, and by fanciers very much admired and collected.
Pachycauls are found in many genera, such as Adansonia, Bombax, Delonix, Dorstenia, Euphorbia, Ficus, Jatropha, Othonna, Pelargonium, Pterodiscus, Sedum, Senecio, Trichodiadema, Uncarina.
Stapeliads is the collective name for a large number of stem succulents, mostly African, and all in the Asclepiad part of the Apocynaceae. Their flowers are most attractive (and frequently bizarre as well) with unusual colours, strange hairs, and even stranger smells. The Stapeliad genera include Caralluma, Stapelia, Orbea, Huernia, Tridentea, Duvalia, Piaranthus, Pseudolithos, Tavaresia, Hoodia, Trichocaulon.
Mesembranthemum Family. Mostly South African (although New Zealand has a native in Disphyma with two species, a mainland one and another on the Chatham islands.) The more extremely dry-tolerant genera have rounded pairs of fused leaves as in Lithops (the Living Stones), Conophytum, Argyroderma, Dinteranthus, Pleiospilos.
But also there are the so-called "Shrubby Mesems" in such genera as Delosperma, Drosanthemum, Lampranthus, Leipoldtia, Mestoklema, Oscularia.
Bromeliads. We grow a limited range of mostly xerophytic terrestrial species e.g. Dyckia, Encholirium, Hechtia, Orthophytum. Also a few others which suit dry gardens (e.g. Aechmea, Neoregelia, Vriesea).
Books: there are many books but few available in New Zealand.
One we recommend as a starting point is Miles Andersons book "The Ultimate Book of Cacti and Succulents" (also published under several other names) available from Unity Books in Auckland.
Phone Auckland (09) 3070731; 19 High Street, Auckland.