Explore UC Davis plant treasures with author Jeff Moore

This week, Jeff Moore of Solana Succulents was in town to promote his new book Spiny Succulents (read my review here). He gave a presentation to the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society on Monday evening, following a string of similar talks in the Bay Area. Since Jeff stayed with us, I got to hang out with him and pepper him with questions. He's a modest guy, but he knows his stuff!

I took Jeff over to the UC Davis campus both on Monday and on Tuesday. On Monday, we dropped in on Ernesto Sandoval at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, who showed us some treasures in the greenhouses and outside. On Tuesday, Jeff and I walked around the UC Davis Arboretum, and like so many out-of-town visitors who have low expectations when they come to Davis, he was amazed that we have such a wonderful resource.

In general, Jeff was very surprised by the kinds of plants we can grow outside, including many aloes such as the Aloidendron dichotomum below.

Jeff Moore and a perfectly shaped Aloidendron dichotomum in a teenage package growing in the cycad garden at UC Davis

Here are some photos I took while out exploring with Jeff.

Ernesto Sandoval and Aloidendron pillansii. Ernesto deserves some kind of lifetime award for being the most helpful, good-natured, and approachable guy around.

Welwitschia mirabilis specimens. Here is more info about this strange and wonderful plant from Namibia.

In case you're wondering, it's not easy at all to grow them to this size and looking this perfectly

Welwitschia mirabilis

Welwitschia mirabilis with male flowers

Pachypodium rutenbergianum, a bit hostile-looking but still beautiful

Flowering Adenium, clearly showing its kinship to oleanders

Grafted brain cactus, looking particularly cerebral

Mammillaria longimamma

Creeping devil (Stenocereus eruca)

Slipper orchid

Pitcher plant (Nepenthes sp.)

On the UC Davis Campus, there are plenty of aloes in full bloom right now:

Decades-old Aloe ferox hybrid

Aloe microstigma

Aloe excelsa (back), Aloe marlothii hybrid (front)

Encephalartos horridus (right) and Aloe striata

Encephalartos horridus and Agave melanacantha

Aloe marlothii not quite in flower

Aloe ferox hybrid and Euphorbia misera

Cliff spurge (Euphorbia misera), a shrub native to Southern and Baja California. Jeff said the specimens on the UC Davis campus are far nicer than what he's seen in San Diego County.

Another Aloe ferox

View of the South Africa bed in the relatively new Biological Orchard and Gardens (BOG) behind the Botanical Conservatory

Aloe ferox (left), Aloe striata (right)

Aloe ferox

Aloe wickensii

South African flowers in full bloom

California native meadow

Fivespot (Nemophilia maculata) and Sedum spathulifolium, both endemic to California

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor, hailing from the Cape region of South Africa

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor (front), Phylica pubescens (back)

Phylica pubescens, a South African shrub in the buckthorn family. I've successfully killed two and had given up on it. Now that I know that it can be grown in Davis, I will try again.

Phylica pubescens

Bulbinella nutans, a bulb from South Africa's Cape region, and Agave colorata

Pearl acacia (Acacia podalyriifolia) on the right

Acacia podalyriifolia

Silver wattle (Acacia dealbata)

Sedum palmeri in flower near Old Putah Creek

Tough Agave americana, thumbing its nose at the lack of a pot or water

Equal tough, Opuntia ficus-indica proving that the only way is forward

Agave ovatifolia and western redbud (Cercis occidentalis). Not a particularly great photo, but I loved the juxtaposition.

Agave xylonacantha basking in the low late-afternoon light

A trio of what looks like the real Agave titanota, a great surprise

This agave was a mystery to both Jeff and me. I'm still trying to find out what it might be.

Skin condition on Agave americana 'Striata'? No, just dripping sap from the pine tree next to it.

Mediterranean spurges like this Euphorbia characias can be weedy because they reseed generously, but there's something about them when their in full bloom

Throw in an artichoke, and it becomes a downright elegant combination

The fact that there are five Pacific madrones (Arbutus menziesii) growing on the UC Davis campus is surprising enough—they really prefer cooler coastal areas—but to see them put on such a magnificent show is even more amazing

The UC Davis campus, and especially the UC Davis Arboretum, are home to some real plant treasures. While my perennially exhausted brain knows that, sometimes it takes an out-of-town visitor for this message to really sink in.

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  1. I love the Euphorbia misera, Lachenalia and the Bulbinella (so much nicer than the Bulbine I've grown here). Not only is the UC Davis Arboretum vastly superior to the garden at UCLA, I think it outshines my local botanic garden, at least when it comes to succulents and other plants that handle dry conditions - but don't tell anyone I said that as they may kick me off the docent team ;)

  2. Wow the Madrones are magnificent. Somewhat surprised to see them that happy in the heat of Davis. Fine Aloes, too.

  3. Great photos! I would definitely grow aloes if I lived in that climate. My Euphorbia characais are just starting to produce their inflorescences. Those madrones are spectacular! Some of the most beautiful and healthy I've seen anywhere!

    1. I'm trying to find out more about the history of these madrones. You simply don't see them in our climate.

  4. I received Jeff's new book as a Christmas gift and have already devoured it's pages. I have all of his books and they are great references for those of us who have to grow succulents in containers. The Davis gardens and greenhouses are looking fantastic at the moment. Thanks for the tour.

    1. What I love most about Jeff (and his books) is his enthusiasm. He could get even a rock excited about succulents!

  5. Arbutus menziesii also thrive in the Sierra foothills, not just the coast. One of my favorites. They take the heat well and will will eventually die if given summer water. My parents loved one on our property near Nevada City so much that they built a house near an enormous multi-trunked clump that was about 100' wide and 60' tall but it eventually succumbed to my mom's irrigated garden being too close to the drip line. So sad.

    1. What's interesting about the madrones on the UC Davis campus is that they're near Old Putah Creek so their roots can go as close to the water as they like but no further. At least that's my theory for why these four madrones look so good!


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