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[ Agave (Agave potatorum 'Kissho Kan') | Posted on June 7, 2018 ]

Attractive clumping variegated dwarf agave with many blue and white striped leaves in a tight rosette.

The non-variegated (all-blue) parent of this plant has gone by various names (also "Kissho Kan", "Kichiokan", "Kitsusyokan") based on the original kanji. The currently accepted "Kichijokan" was published in Starr's "Agaves" (2012). This name can be loosely translated to "Happy Crown" or "Lucky Crown" -- those have been used as common names in English speaking countries. It is from the potatorum/isthmensis group, though its precise species origin is not clear.

"Kissho Kan" is but the most common of several variegated forms of this all-blue parent. Its leaf margins are a pale creamy color.

Frost sensitive. Provide excellent drainage. A well behaved if somewhat prolific landscape plant, and an excellent, long-lived container plant as well. Most compact form in full sun. Easily propagated from offsets.

After some good rain when the plant is growing in full swing, the spines may be various colors. They emerge yellow and pass through orange and red to brown and eventually whitish grey in maturity. This plant is quite photogenic, especially at maturity and especially when in active growth.

[ Agave (Agave potatorum 'Kichijokan') | Posted on June 7, 2018 ]

Attractive clumping dwarf artichoke agave with many blue leaves in a tight rosette. This plant has gone by various names (also "Kissho Kan", "Kichiokan", "Kitsusyokan") based on the original kanji. The currently accepted "Kichijokan" was published in Starr's "Agaves" (2012). This name can be loosely translated to "Happy Crown" or "Lucky Crown" -- those have been used as common names in English speaking countries. It is from the potatorum/isthmensis group, though its precise species origin is not clear.

Frost sensitive. Provide excellent drainage. A well behaved if somewhat prolific landscape plant, and an excellent, long-lived container plant as well. Most compact form in full sun. Easily propagated from offsets.

After some good rain when the plant is growing in full swing, the spines may be various colors. They emerge yellow and pass through orange and red to brown and eventually whitish grey in maturity. This plant is quite photogenic, especially at maturity and especially when in active growth.

Not to be confused with a variegated version of this plant, "Kissho Kan", which has creamy margins and grows somewhat slower. The variegated "Kissho Kan" is probably more popular in cultivation but both are reasonably common plants. The other variegated forms of this plant are much less common in cultivation.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium mikea) | Posted on June 6, 2018 ]

Recently (2005) described succulent tree species which resembles Pachypodium geayi, growing relatively tall before it branches. The two species grow together in southwestern Madagascar. They can most easily be distinguished by the flower. White flowers. Broad, spreading fruit. Uncommon in cultivation.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium decaryi) | Posted on June 6, 2018 ]

Caudiciform succulent shrub from far northern Madagascar with a globose base and few branches, to 6 or more feet tall. The least spiny of the Pachypodiums. White flowers. Deciduous leaves. Narrow, horn-like fruit. May not grow the characteristic swollen base if started from a cutting.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium rutenbergianum) | Posted on June 5, 2018 ]

Large succulent tree, usually with a thick trunk and many branches. The largest and most widespread of the Madagascar Pachypodiums. Found mostly at low altitudes on the western side of the island. Uncommon in cultivation.

Narrow, deciduous leaves. White scented flowers. Long, narrow, horn-like fruit. This tree normally flowers and branches late, at perhaps 6 feet, though all sorts of variation in lower branching can occur.

Pachypodium sofiense was formerly a variety of rutenbergianum and is less common in nature and cultivation. It has a wider, pitted fruit and tends to make wider leaves.

[ Pachypodium (Pachypodium sofiense) | Posted on May 28, 2018 ]

Large, branching succulent tree with fragrant white flowers and wide, rounded, pitted fruit. Named after the Sofia River near the north of its range in the forests of northwestern Madagascar, where it is not common.

May be confused with P. lamerei, which is much more common in cultivation. P. sofiense can be distinguished by its broader leaves, scented flowers, and pitted fruit. It tends to branch earlier and more often, and it can reach a greater size.

This species was formerly considered a variety of P. rutenbergianum, a potentially more massive tree from Madagascar with narrower leaves and fruit. P. rutenbergianum var. perrieri was placed under P. sofiense when the species were separated.

[ Aloe (Aloe aculeata) | Posted on May 26, 2018 ]

Extra spiny stemless aloe with incurved leaves from southern Africa. The species name refers to the prominent spines on the leaf surfaces. Solitary and grown from seed. Inflorescences are usually branched on older plants and racemes are densely flowered. The flowers are yellow to orange, but orange to red in bud, thus often but not always bicolor. Flowers are ventricose (with a little belly) and have exserted stamens and style.

Drought tolerant. Leaves may turn orange, brown or red in full sun.

Featured on the back of the South African 10 cent coin from 1965 to 1989.

[ Bushman Candle (Monsonia crassicaulis) | Posted on May 5, 2018 ]

Spiny succulent shrub to about 12-18 inches from southern Africa with waxy stems (thus the common name) and beautifully delicate white or yellowish flowers, often in profusion. The most common member of an uncommon group in cultivation. From the geranium family. Often and formerly called Sarcocaulon crassicaule. Like the ocotillo, these plants make two types of leaves: one with a persistent petiole that hardens and becomes a spine, and one without a petiole that emerges from the axil.

May be seasonally deciduous, but usually quite leafy in mild climates with regular water. This plant comes from areas with low rainfall, and it is quite drought tolerant. It responds to rainfall by leafing out and flowering. It does very well in dry winter rainfall (Mediterranean) climates.

Provide strong light and excellent drainage in cultivation. This is a well behaved container plant which responds nicely to pruning, often by branching. It is suitable for bonsai or cultivation in relatively small pots. Fertilized flowers will develop a sort of horn that breaks open when mature to reveal long seeds with long fine, feathery hairs attached.

[ Echeveria (Echeveria agavoides) | Posted on April 21, 2018 ]

Common green Echeveria from central Mexico with red edges and tips in the sun. There are many versions of this plant (plus hybrids) in cultivation. A few barely blush at all. Several colorful cultivars have been named and they generally offset regularly but not prolifically. Longer-leafed forms also exist. The flowers are small and easy to miss, though plants often make multiple inflorescences.

Provide strong light and excellent drainage in cultivation. These are dry growing plants, well suited to container life. Best leaf color and form are seen in direct sun. In locations without extreme heat, the red-blushing forms are some of the best Echeverias for extreme exposure locations. Inflorescences in bud are prone to aphids. Longer-leafed forms are prone to mealy bugs. Offsets are easily rooted. May self-seed in cultivation.

[ Echeveria 'Mauna Loa' | Posted on April 20, 2018 ]

A colorful, solitary Dick Wright hybrid of E. gibbiflora "Carunculata" and other plants to about 12-18 inches wide with ruffled, carunculated leaves. Most dramatic color in full sun. Tones of red, blue, and purple are most pronounced. In protected locations, the color tends toward green with highlights. Not all plants are carunculated (the leaf surfaces of some plants have no warts). Provide excellent drainage in containers.

[ Echeveria (Echeveria affinis) | Posted on April 20, 2018 ]

Striking black Echeveria from northwestern Mexico (Durango and Sinaloa) with intense red flowers in late summer or fall. Less common in cultivation than its hybrid progeny "Black Prince" and "Black Knight", both quite similar in their overall appearance and flower color. Leaves may be greenish at the base in low light, or dark brown instead of black in the sun. Offsets sparingly. Long lived. Provide strong light (hours of daily sun) for best color and form. Provide excellent drainage. Susceptible to mealy bugs, which are easy to spot against the dark background.

[ Echeveria 'Black Prince' | Posted on April 20, 2018 ]

Striking black Echeveria hybrid by Frank Reinelt between E. affinis and E. shaviana (the former also a parent of "Black Knight", the latter also a parent of "Afterglow"). Looks nothing like shaviana. Offsets sparingly. Copious red flowers, often in late summer or fall. May be distinguished from affinis and "Black Knight" based on the shape of the leaves (thinner, more sharply tapering at the tip) and the posture (more spreading and less erect).

Like the other black Echeverias, its color will be darkest and most intense in very strong light (hours of direct sun) and tend toward a greener tone in protected locations. Also like them, it is susceptible to mealy bugs (which are easy to spot if you look for them against the dark background).

[ Blue Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus glaucescens) | Posted on April 10, 2018 ]

Attractive glaucous blue-green barrel cactus with yellow flowers and spines. Sharp, well-defined ribs are armed with spines that are not easily distinguished as central or radial. May be solitary or clumping. From Hidalgo, Mexico. May be self fertile. Grown from seed. Provide strong light and excellent drainage in cultivation.

[ Mexican Giant Cardon (Pachycereus pringlei) | Posted on April 9, 2018 ]

Among the largest of all cacti, the giant cardón is one of the signature plants of Baja California. It is restricted to BC's slice of the Sonoran Desert, from San Matias and San Felipe south to the tip of the peninsula. In desert regions it is quite common, often growing alongside cirios (Fouquieria columnaris) and other cacti.

In nature the cardón is a slow-growing tree to 60 feet tall with branches. It dominates dry, rocky areas and can colonize pure rock by growing in decomposing granite or cracks in the rock. A hard core desert survivor like few others, it tolerates extended drought by drawing on water reserves in its succulent stems. The stems of these plants provide valuable protection and nesting locations to birds, which also eat the fruit.

In cultivation this plant requires strong light and excellent drainage. It can be a well behaved container plant for several years (at least a decade) before it begs to be put in the ground. Allow the soil to dry out at depth before watering and do not overwater in summer.

The cardón may be easily confused with the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), also a Sonoran Desert native, in cultivation. However, the two do not overlap in habitat. There are no saguaros in BC and there are no cardones on the mainland or in Arizona. The two plants can be resolved based on their flowers, their size (cardón more massive and highly branched), and the height of the first branches (cardón generally lower), among other more subtle features.

Cardones are trioecious, meaning that separate individuals may make male flowers, female flowers, or bisexual flowers (or asexual flowers, in some cases).

The cardón is one parent of the rare natural hybrid xPacherocactus orcutti, along with the golden-spined Bergerocactus emoryi. The two only overlap in the region near El Rosario (Bergerocactus extends north from there, cardón extends south).

[ Ferocactus (Ferocactus chrysacanthus) | Posted on April 8, 2018 ]

Extra-spiny barrel cactus from Baja California (Cedros and San Benito Islands; western Baja California Sur). Spines may be yellow, red, gray, or white (first two are seen in cultivation and grow side by side in habitat). Flowers may be yellow, orange, or red. Subspecies chrysacanthus (yellow/orange flowers) comes from the islands, subspecies grandiflorus (orange/red flowers) comes from the peninsula. Solitary, slow growing, and uncommon in cultivation.

[ Devil's Tongue Barrel (Ferocactus latispinus) | Posted on April 8, 2018 ]

Solitary barrel cactus from central Mexico with red/orange/yellow/white spines and pinkish purple or yellow flowers. Plants are generally wider than tall. Lower central spine is flat and banded, and curved or hooked at the tip. Subspecies latispinus (widespread) has 9-15 radial spines and subspecies spiralis (only Puebla/Oaxaca) has 5-7 radial spines.

May be self fertile. Grown from seed. Flowers at a relatively young age. Common in cultivation.

[ Coastal Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) | Posted on March 30, 2018 ]

Cholla from coastal southern California and northwestern Baja California. Said to be a product of hybridization between C. alcahes and C. cholla, based on DNA analysis, but it is also found much more broadly to the north of where those two plants occur in habitat. It makes intense purple-red flowers and sometimes many proliferating fruits. It can grow to the size of a bush a few feet tall and wide and is very drought tolerant.

Like most chollas, this plant reproduces vegetatively when segments break off and stick to a passerby, then are detached elsewhere and root.

This cholla has extremely hazardous barbed spines, which are even worse than those of the average cholla. It is not recommended for use in gardens where there is any possibility of humans or pets coming in contact. Perhaps as a living fence to exclude traffic it might work. Otherwise keep a safe distance, as direct encounters are memorably unpleasant.

[ Golden Cereus (Bergerocactus emoryi) | Posted on March 30, 2018 ]

Yellow-spined, narrow-stemmed cactus from coastal southern California, some Channel Islands, and northwestern Baja California. May form large clumps of mostly erect stems, branching at the base, to about 4-5 feet tall in habitat. These clumps provide shelter for birds and other small animals, and they act as nurse plants for Dudleyas, Ferocactus, and other succulents. Bergerocactus is found on open ground near the coast but it may also occupy sheer rock faces and canyon walls, where it tends to have a more rambling and tangled habit. Flowers are yellow and diurnal. Fruit is dry and very spiny.

Incredibly drought tolerant and long-lived when established. A wonderful subject for photography when backlit by the sun, especially in groups, since the spines catch the light and glow, looking almost furry and deceptively friendly.

This is the only species of Bergerocactus. It is one of the parents of the exotic natural hybrid xMyrtgerocactus lindsayi, along with the candelabra cactus Myrtillocactus cochal. It is also one of the parents of the rare natural hybrid xPacherocactus orcutti, along with the giant cardón, Pachycereus pringlei.

[ Coastal Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis) | Posted on March 30, 2018 ]

Low, spreading prickly pear from coastal southern California and northwestern Baja California. Well armed. Provides shelter for birds and food for various small animals. Flowers are usually yellow to orange, leading to juicy red fruit. This cactus may be confused with O. oricola, which makes rounder pads with more areoles, and is often bigger.

[ Parodia (Parodia schumanniana) | Posted on March 25, 2018 ]

Robust cylindrical cactus from South America with long, thin yellow spines, yellow flowers, and a green body. From subtropical Brazil, southern Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina. May reach a few feet tall in old age. After a few years the crown becomes very wooly, usually with a slight lean toward the sun. Buds are covered with brown hair. In cultivation this plant may flower in great abundance and with great regularity, year round. Provide excellent drainage and strong light.

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