Spring is here for good, and it’s planting—and plant buying—time! With little room left in any of our planting beds, I’m focusing on smallish plants I can display on tables and racks. This week our lovely mail lady brought two packages. If you’re anything like me, opening a box from a mail-order nursery is a little bit like opening a birthday present: thrilling and exciting. And who can ever have enough thrill and excitement in their life?
|Box of goodies from Arid Lands|
My first box was from Arid Lands Greenhouses in Tucson, Arizona, one of the premier specialist succulent nurseries in the country. Arid Lands has an astonishingly broad catalog; if you’ve never been to their web site, you must check it out if you’re into succulents. The euphorbia section alone contains 485 items!
In fact, my order consisted of nothing but euphorbias. They came neatly wrapped in newspaper:
|Wrapped in newspaper to enhance the opening pleasure|
While personally I prefer receiving potted plants, I do understand that shipping bare-root material is significantly cheaper. And I admit, it is cool being able to see the roots.
|Bare-rooted plants from Arid Lands|
When buying plants this small (all of them were in 4-inch pots), it often takes a bit of imagination to visualize what they will look like later on. In addition to photos of the plants I received, I’m also adding photos of what mature specimens look like so you have any idea why I was attracted to these euphorbia species in the first place.
|TOP: Euphorbia cylindrifolia subsp. tuberifera |
BOTTOM: Euphorbia ambovombensis
|Euphorbia cylindrifolia subsp. tuberifera|
|Mature Euphorbia cylindrifolia subsp. tuberifera at Huntington Botanical Gardens|
© Candice Suter. Reproduced with permission.
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|Older Euphorbia ambovombensis|
Photo credit: Fernando-M on Flickr
|Mature Euphorbia bupleurifolia. It’s sometimes called “pineapple euphorbia,” and looking at a mature specimen, it’s easy to see why.|
Photo source: Gates Cactus & Succulent Society
For this euphorbia I don’t even need to post a photo of a mature plant; it’s easy to see why I like this species so much!
In addition to my order from Arid Lands, I received a plant from Terrapin Gardens, a small mail-order nursery in Seattle, Washington. While their catalog is heavy on perennials, especially rare salvias, they also have a handful of succulents, including one I’ve been looking for for quite a while: Dioscorea elephantipes, commonly called “elephant’s foot” or “hottentot bread.”
This South African native has a very attractive caudex with a cork-like texture that in the wild can grow to astonishing dimensions. According to Plantzafrica.com:
Sir William Hooker, one of the ex directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and historical botanical explorer, reported seeing one such specimen in the wild attain a height of 2.1 m (7 ft). The weight was estimated at 365 kg.
That is a jaw-dropping 800 pounds! Needless to say in cultivation the plant stays significantly smaller—a specimen I photographed at UC Botanical Garden (see below) was about 8 inches across and 20+ years old.
|Mature Dioscorea elephantipes at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley|
The plant I received from Terrapin Gardens is small—it’s caudex is about 1⅝ inches in diameter—but it is already showing the fissures that make this species so attractive. As you can see from the vine, the plant is actively growing. The vine will die in early summer and the plant will then go dormant for a period of time.
I’m still relatively new to the strange world of caudiciforms and pachycauls—“fat plants,” as they are often called—but I love learning about their quirks.