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[ Euphorbia (Euphorbia aeruginosa) | Posted on January 10, 2018 ]

Small spiny, shrubby Euphorbia from South Africa. Grows as a multibranched collection of thin blue/green stems, each armed with regular reddish brown spines. Small yellow cyathia appear at the base of the spines. Excellent subject for macro photography, especially in bloom. Grown by some people in miniature gardens. Eventually, given time and space, individual stems will become an amorphous shrubby mass.

[ Dagger Cactus (Stenocereus gummosus) | Posted on January 7, 2018 ]

Sprawling, spiny, multibranched cactus from Baja California, found from Ensenada south to the cape region. Extremely tolerant of drought and nutrient-poor soil. Usually much wider than tall, often forming a sort of thicket over extended time. White or pinkish nocturnal flowers pollinated by hawk moths, delicious spiny red fruit. Supports animal life and serves as a nurse plant in habitat. Large colony of mature plants visible above the main road just north of the port of Ensenada.

Called the "pitaya agria" (sour pitaya) to distinguish it from sweeter Stenocereus spp. (pitaya dulce) found to the south.

[ African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona) | Posted on December 13, 2017 ]

Spiny, heavily branched succulent Euphorbia which can grow to the size of a bush or small tree, given time and space. Very common in cultivation. The branches are upright, running mostly vertical, so the plant does not develop much spread until old age. (This upright branching may be useful to distinguish young plants from the similar-looking E. lactea.)

This plant has a mottled stem and small leaves which appear during active growth but do not last long. There is a red-tinged version called rubra, among other forms.

Handle cuttings with caution. Wear gloves, use sharp tools, and avoid touching the fresh sap, which may be an extreme irritant, made much more dangerous when the skin is broken by spines.

Best form in strong light. Growth may be seriously retarded by underpotting.

[ Euphorbia (Euphorbia inermis) | Posted on December 13, 2017 ]

South African succulent Euphorbia with white or yellow fragrant flowers. One of the largest medusas. Like the others, it grows a central "head" with many "arms" (the venomous snakes of Greek mythology) radiating outward around it. The stem may grow a few inches high and wide, the total width of the plant a foot or so. The arms are relatively thick for this group.

Best form in strong light. Usually grown from seed. Growth seriously retarded by underpotting. Vulnerable to scale (check the underside of the arms). Excellent landscape plant.

Very difficult to distinguish from E. esculenta.

[ Euphorbia (Euphorbia esculenta) | Posted on December 13, 2017 ]

South African succulent Euphorbia with white or yellow fragrant flowers. One of the largest medusas. Like the others, it grows a central "head" with many "arms" (the venomous snakes of Greek mythology) radiating outward around it. The stem may grow a few inches high and wide, the total width of the plant a foot or more. The arms are relatively thick for this group.

Best form in strong light. May be self fertile. Usually grown from seed. Self-seeding in the succulent container garden. Growth seriously retarded by underpotting. Vulnerable to scale (check the underside of the arms). Excellent landscape plant.

Very difficult to distinguish from E. inermis.

[ Propeller Plant (Crassula perfoliata var. minor) | Posted on November 22, 2017 ]

The preponderance of young plants in the images for this plant reflects its lifestyle and the risk posed by flowering in such profuse red abundance that aphids and other insects move in for the kill. Also: do not overwater.

This succulent grows year round in mild climates but pauses to flower in the summer. The flowers are terminal, meaning stem growth pauses until after flowering, when new branches sprout at the base of the inflorescence and the cycle continues. After a year or two (if there are natural predators around to keep the bugs away) the plant starts growing sideways and branching annually as it goes. After a few years it starts to look a little ratty as the lower leaves die and it becomes more creeper than propeller.

By ablating the growth center of a young plant, you can force it to branch in profusion, and have a nice set of cuttings later to grow on.

[ Echeveria 'Perle von Nurnberg' | Posted on October 29, 2017 ]

Robust hybrid Echeveria by R. Graessner. Parentage is E. gibbiflora "Metallica" (a selection of gibbiflora distinct from the hybrid of the same name) x E. potosina (now E. elegans). Best color with strong light.

[ Echeveria (Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy') | Posted on October 29, 2017 ]

Common and stable monstrose variant of Echeveria runyonii, named by Marlon Kimnach. Like the species, a prolific offsetter and bloomer. Powder blue leaves and pink flowers in a double shepherd's crook. Distributed by the ISI in 1986 as ISI 1647.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium windsorii) | Posted on October 29, 2017 ]

One of two Pachypodiums with red flowers, this caudiciform succulent grows a globose base with sprawling stems. Relatively small for the genus (caudex to 8 inches in old age). Beautiful flowers and rough, irregular shape.

Not a beginner Pachypodium. Like P. brevicaule, this plant is often difficult to keep going long term in cultivation. Requires warmth (especially in winter), excellent drainage, and attention to watering (related to the season, state of growth, and temperature), especially avoiding the loss of roots due to desiccation. Try P. saundersii first if you like this growth habit.

From an area with relatively high rainfall in Madagascar. Unusual in cultivation and very rare in habitat.

Also called P. baronii var. windsorii. The first name refers to the missionary R. Baron and the second refers to a 1300 foot elevation feature in northern Madagascar named Windsor Castle, with an amazing view, used as a surveillance point by colonial forces.

[ Aeonium (Aeonium nobile) | Posted on October 23, 2017 ]

Large, solitary, short-stemmed Aeonium with thick green leaves and red flowers (an unusual color for Aeonium). Beautiful sculptural form. Larger rosettes can reach impressive proportions, in the ground or in extra-large containers. May be self fertile. Offsetting forms found in cultivation may be hybrids.

This plant enjoys day long sun in mild climates. Stressed plants (or plants during their summer rest) may turn yellow, orange or brown; this is generally reversible. Provide strong light, excellent drainage, and regular water. Not recommended as a long term container plant where space or light may be limiting.

From La Palma in the Canary Islands (the only solitary Aeonium on the island). Well suited to mild Mediterranean (winter rainfall) climates.

[ Mountain Grass (Kleinia neriifolia) | Posted on October 17, 2017 ]

Large, much-branched succulent shrub with glaucous, sausage-like stems and narrow, summer-deciduous green leaves. Very seasonal growth pattern (winter grower, summer dormant). Probably best suited to mild Mediterranean (winter rainfall) climates. Potentially a large plant in the ground. The amount of branching is variable. A wide-leafed natural form called ovatifolia branches a lot.

Propagate from stem cuttings in fall. Provide strong light for best form and stability. Water regularly (general succulent care) from fall through spring (and summer, in mild climates). Provide good drainage and ample space in containers.

From the Canary Islands, where it may be easily confused with native Euphorbias (but unlike them, does not exude a dangerous sap).

Formerly known as Senecio kleinia.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium brevicaule) | Posted on October 17, 2017 ]

The lowest and weirdest of the Pachypodiums, from Madagascar. This caudiciform succulent grows as a fat, low, amorphous blob with spines and deciduous leaves at the growth points. May reach about 3 feet wide in old age, rarely over a third that size in cultivation. Usually yellow flowers, though a white-flowered version (leucoxanthum) does exist. Susceptible to rot on its own roots but much easier and likely a longer lived plant when grafted onto lamerei or geayi. Very seasonal growth pattern.

Not a beginner Pachypodium. Requires warm temperatures, strong light, excellent drainage, and attention to watering. Water more in summer, especially when it's warm, and less in winter. Avoid letting the soil go completely dry.

[ Kudu Lily (Pachypodium saundersii) | Posted on October 6, 2017 ]

Shrubby caudiciform succulent with a fat body and narrow, spreading, spiny branches. Deciduous leaves appear toward the end of the branches. Can be spectacular in old age. White flowers in late summer/fall tinged with purple/pink. From South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe.

Seasonal growth pattern features a summer growth spurt and winter dormancy, though some leaves may be retained through the winter in mild climates. Water more frequently in summer. Does not like cold (below 45-50°F), wet winters. Potentially a large plant (body to 3 feet wide), and stunted by underpotting. Responds well to pruning. Best form with very strong light (full sun in mild climates).

Formerly known as P. lealii saundersii, and closely related to P. lealii (from Namibia and Angola), a larger shrub or tree with a bottle shaped stem and pubescent leaves.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium succulentum) | Posted on October 3, 2017 ]

One of two similar-looking Pachypodiums which grow a buried caudex, often lifted after several years for display. Mature plants can be spectacular. Both species grow skinny above-ground stems as well, armed with spines and bearing leaves toward the end. Easily controlled with pruning. Protect the caudex from direct sun after lifting it to avoid scarring.

Flowers, borne at various times of year, have a pinwheel shape rather than the bell-like shape of P. bispinosum. Otherwise the two species are not easy to tell apart. There are also hybrids with intermediate flowers. Widely distributed in western South Africa, partially overlapping in distribution with P. bispinosum.

One parent of Pachypodium "Arid Lands", a hybrid with P. namaquanum.

The plant formerly known as P. griquense is a small-flowered form of P. succulentum.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium bispinosum) | Posted on October 3, 2017 ]

One of two similar-looking Pachypodiums which grow a buried caudex, often lifted after several years for display. Mature plants can be spectacular. Both species grow skinny above-ground stems as well, armed with spines and bearing leaves toward the end. Easily controlled with pruning. Protect the caudex from direct sun after lifting it to avoid scarring.

Flowers, borne at various times of year, are bell-like instead of the pinwheel configuration of P. succulentum. Otherwise the two species are not easy to tell apart. There are also hybrids with intermediate flowers. From the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, overlapping in distribution with P. succulentum (which also grows elsewhere).

[ Bromeliad (Deuterocohnia lorentziana) | Posted on September 16, 2017 ]

Mound-forming, highly branched terrestrial bromeliad comprised of many small rosettes with spiky leaves. Can spread out quite a bit over an extended period and be impressive in old age. Tubular green flowers emerge near the body of the plant. Like a larger cousin of D. brevifolia, which is similar in many aspects. Drought tolerant, easy to propagate, enjoys extreme exposure.

[ Tequila Agave (Agave tequilana) | Posted on August 15, 2017 ]

The classic blue agave used to make tequila, whose production is limited to certain areas of Mexico.

A large plant with straight, erect leaves to 4-6 feet tall, eventually growing the short stem, or "piña", which is harvested for fermentation. Color mostly varies from glaucous blue-gray to gray-green, sometimes with cross banding. Offsets regularly via rhizomes and will form clumps if allowed to do so. May require some overhead protection in the low desert, otherwise thrives in full sun. May be somewhat frost sensitive. Very similar to the related A. angustifolia, which may be difficult to resolve.

[ Aloe (Aloe wickensii) | Posted on August 15, 2017 ]

Greenish South African aloe, usually solitary, with a medium sized rosette of incurved leaves and 3-4 branched inflorescences with bicolored flowers (usually red opening to yellow, but sometimes all yellow). Leaves turn grayish green to brown and close in with stress and drought. Closely related to A. pienaarii and A. cryptopoda, may also be confused with A. lutescens.

There has been some discussion as to whether wickensii should be merged with cryptopoda, which has a nonoverlapping range (Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique). Aloe wickensii can be distinguished from cryptopoda by its larger overall size, more highly branched inflorescences, larger and differently shaped floral bracts, and different flower color. It can be distinguished from the related A. lutescens, which also makes bicolored flowers, by its usually solitary habit (lutescens normally offsets), shorter racemes, and brighter yellow flowers.

[ Halfmens (Pachypodium namaquanum) | Posted on June 15, 2017 ]

Slow-growing, spiny pachycaul succulent from the Richtersveld near the border between South Africa and Namibia, which has a very dry winter-rainfall climate. After many years about half the size of a human (thus the common name), a few feet tall in old age. A difficult plant for locations with wet summers (real risk of rot). Requires very strong light (full sun) and excellent drainage. Ideal for dry Mediterranean-type climates with mild winters. Watering schedule is best determined by the growth status of the plant at any given time (water more often when in leaf). May experience extended dormancy, especially during summer.

[ Euphorbia (Euphorbia decepta) | Posted on June 15, 2017 ]

Small South African medusoid Euphorbia with short arms. Has apparently absorbed the recently (1996) described E. astrophora, a diminutive plant with persistent peduncles, though the Kew plant list disagrees.

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