05 May Waterwise Plants And Succulents
Around the world hot, dry climates have resulted in plants evolving to survive. There are number of different ways they have done this. Plants like the hellichrysum species have evolved to be grey, white and silver. This allows them to reflect much of the sun’s hot rays. Stachys or Lambs Ear has developed hairy leaves that insulate it and help prevent the evaporation of its precious water.
There is another large group of plants known commonly as succulents. These are plants that develop fleshy, water bearing body parts to help collect and store whatever scarce precipitation might be available. Different plants approach the water storage problem slightly differently. Some have thick, fleshy leaves while others store water in their trunks or in reservoirs under the ground in the form of bulbs or tubers.
Here are some fascinating examples of succulents.
Aloes: A large family containing tree, bush, shrub and even grass type aloes. Most have spines on either the margins or the faces of the leaves and their geometric spirals and fiery flowers are synonymous with the South African veld.
Cactus: Originating in Central and South America these plants are most well known for their vicious spines. They have thickened stems that they use for storing water and many produce edible fruits known as prickly pears.
Echeveria: The rock roses, like their name suggests mimic the stunning flowers of the English rose. Thick succulent leaves follow a perfect Fibonacci sequence and their mathematical grace is perfect in a pot on a patio or windowsill.
Sedum: The family known as the Stonecrops numbers more than 450 members. Often grown for their stunning a flowers. Found in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the northern parts of South America sedum is areal international traveller. Succulent leaves come in a huge array of shapes and colours and their creeping nature is perfect to drape the edges of pots and rockeries.
Euphorbia: Africa’s version of the cactus these plants come in a massive variety of forms. From huge candelabra shaped trees to tubular, pink corals and strange star fish sprawls the Euphorbias are known for their milky toxic sap. Be careful when handling these stunning plants.
Wild Grape (Cyphostemma juttae): An unusual succulent with a massive, oversized trunk. This slow growing succulent produces thick fleshy leaves at the beginning of spring but these drop off in the colder months. The fleshy “grapes” the plant produces from rather insignificant flowers are toxic and should not be ingested.
Clivia miniata and Agapanthus praecox: with their strap-like leaves these two plants have similar growth requirements and habits the main difference being that Clivia prefer shade while agapanthus is a sun lover. They have been included in this list because they have very similar succulent root systems. Anyone who has pulled either of these plants out of the ground will have seen the fat white roots and may have noticed that the plants can be left out of the ground for a good few days with no ill effects. That is because these fat roots hold the plants water supply and can survive in dryer times.