One of my pandemic pastimes has been learning about succulents. I started with cacti and now I have moved on to succulents (to be clear, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti). All succulents are defined as water-storing plants, for the word “succulent” comes from Latin word “sucus,” meaning juice or sap.
I’ve started my succulent journey at the beginning of the alphabet, so without further ado, here are some of my favorite succulents in the “A” family. All photos and info come courtesy of the World of Succulents website.
The family takes its name from the genus Amaryllis and is commonly known as the amaryllis family.
specimen: Boophone haemanthoides (So. Africa) It looks very much like a primitive plant with at least two thirds of its massive scaly bulb visible above ground. Some of the largest bulbs can be more than a hundred years old! more info, more info
family: Aizoaceae “stone plants”
The common Afrikaans name “vygie” meaning “small fig” refers to the fruiting capsule, which resembles the true fig. Glistening epidermal bladder cells give the family its other common name “ice plants.”
specimen: Muiria hortenseae (So. Africa) aka “mouse head.” Unlike most other plants in its family, Muiria is covered in soft downy fur and has leaves that are entirely fused together, into one smooth rounded body. more info
specimen: Conophytum calculus (So. Africa) aka “marble buttons.” Rounded ball-shaped succulent plant, that divides to form dense clumps. The resemblance to pebbles and the firmness of its flesh is what got it its name (“calculus” is Latin for “pebble”). It produces yellow or orange flowers in autumn, that open at night, and have the aroma of cloves. more info, more info
A family of flowering plants that includes trees, shrubs, herbs, stem succulents, and vines, commonly known as the dogbane family.
specimen: Hoodia currorii (Namibia, So. Africa) It grows in desert areas. It bears rust-red flowers mid-summer which are covered in purple hairs. These are large flowers, about five to ten centimeters in diameter. Hoodia currorii may be eaten after the spines are removed and is said to have a sweet flavor. more info, more info
specimen: Adenium multiflorum (So. Africa) It flowers in winter when most of the surrounding vegetation is rather dull by comparison to the brilliant white, pink, crimson, red and bicoloured flowers that cover these plants when they are in full bloom. Like other succulent members of the family Apocynaceae, A. multiflorum has a milky latex with toxic alkaloids, specifically Cardiac glycosides. This latex is used as an arrow poison and as a fish stunning poison. more info, more info
specimen: Rhytidocaulon macrolobum (Saudi Arabia)
Critically endangered and ecologically protected. It grows in dry, rocky countryside, shallow depressions and dry lake beds containing high levels of dissolved minerals, west-facing slopes and valley ether in tufts of grass, or in the shade of low shrubs or rocks. more info, more info
specimen: Larryleachia cactiformis (So. Africa) It grows in the shape of a small cactus, with no leaves, spines or branches but ribbed with mammaillae on 4-6 sided protrusions. It is a stapeliad succulent (stapelieae resemble cacti, though are not closely related, as an example of convergent evolution.) more info, more info
specimen: Stapelia hirsuta (So. Africa) aka “starfish flower” or “carrion plant.” The dark-red flowers smell like a carrion and are covered by long setae that remember the fur of a dead animal, this way they attract flies for pollination (sapromyophily). These flowers attract beetles and carrion flies who pollinate the plant as they are fooled into trying to lay eggs on the flower. more info, more info
A family of monocotyledonous flowering plants in which flowers are borne on a type of inflorescence called a spadix.
specimen: Amorphophallus titanum (Sumatra) aka “Corpse Flower.” Many plants in this family are thermogenic (heat-producing). Their flowers can reach up to 45°C even when the surrounding air temperature is much lower. One reason for this unusually high temperature is to attract insects (usually beetles) to pollinate the plant, rewarding the beetles with heat energy. Another reason is to prevent tissue damage in cold regions. It has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. more info
The family has a widespread distribution, from subpolar to tropical regions in a wide variety of habitats, and is found on every continent but Antarctica.
specimen: Curio citriformis (So. Africa) aka “String of Pearls.” It is a scrambling plant with small leaves which somewhat resembles a lemon in outline. It is similar in appearance, in addition to being closely related, to Curio herreanus. more info, more info
Hope you enjoyed your succulent journey!
Here is the link to my previous cacti post.