Book review: Dudleyas by Jeremy Spath, Kelly Griffin, and Jeff Moore

Dudleyas are a genus of succulent plants native to the coastal and inland regions of California and Baja California, Mexico. They are often found clinging to cliffs and rock outcrops where they survive on very little water – a testament to their remarkable resilience. With symmetrical rosettes that range in color from pure white to vibrant green, sometimes with reddish leaf edges, they are seductively beautiful.

Even though dudleyas are found in many places from far northern California to the southern tip of Baja, they’re not well known among plant lovers, even in California native plant circles. Dudleyas did make the news in 2018 and 2019 after large-scale poaching of Dudleya farinosa by foreign nationals had been discovered on the north coast of California. In response, legislation was passed in 2021 that provides important protections for dudleyas. To raise awareness, the California Native Plant Society has introduced animated mascots for 18 California species.

What fragmented information exists on dudleyas is scattered all over the internet, and there hasn’t been a book on the genus in 40 years. (The only dudleya book ever published was poorly illustrated and fraught with factual errors.)

But that was then. The groundbreaking book Dudleyas by Jeremy Spath, Kelly Griffin, and Jeff Moore is finally here, and it changes everything. In the works for several years, this 300-page book featuring over 1,000 spectacular photos covers all 50 species recognized at the time of printing plus 15+ subspecies. As the preface states, “It is not intended to be the definitive monograph, but rather a collection of knowledge from many to pull together the best of what we know so far.” In other words, it’s not meant to be relegated to the dusty shelves of academia, but enjoyed by plant lovers like you and me.

As you can see from the table of contents above, the book covers a range of topics: from the history of dudleya exploration and research to taxonomy and diagnostics...

...from a description of the range and habitat of dudleyas... information on how to grow them in containers and in the landscape, including common pests and diseases.

The bulk of the book, about 200 out of 300 pages, is dedicated to species accounts...

...lavishly illustrated with habitat photos.

Many pictures are so striking, they would look great as prints on a living room wall.

Every effort was made to incorporate the latest taxonomic information. This includes two new species (Dudleya delgadilloi and Dudleya cochimiana) described by Stephen McCabe in January 2023 (more info) as well as the split of the green forms of Dudleya brittonii into Dudleya josedelgadilloi, Dudleya reidmoranii subsp. reidmoranii, and Dudleya reidmoranii subsp. cascada proposed by Mulroy, Guilliams, and Hasenstab-Lehman in March 2023 (more info). In addition, the authors include five dudleyas that haven’t been formally described yet and may eventually become subspecies of existing species, or even their own species; for now, they refer to them as ‘Flaviflora’, ‘Densissima’, ‘Todos Santos’, ‘Fat Fingers’, and ‘Deminuta’.

A separate section is dedicated to the subgenus Hasseanthus. These are tiny plants that die back completely in the summer and reappear with the rains in late fall or early winter. These dudleyas, which superficially resemble sedums, are more of an oddity and don’t make good candidates for cultivation: they’re not much took at their best and are dormant for half of the year.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the photographs in the book are truly stunning. While many different people contributed images, most of them were taken by the authors. Jeremy Spath and Kelly Griffin in particular made a number of trips to Baja to photograph Mexican species in habitat. The result is a rich collection of photos that showcase dudleyas like never before. That alone is a great reason to buy the book.

Dudleyas can be ordered directly from the authors, Jeremy SpathKelly Griffin and Jeff Moore. The softcover edition is $49.95, the limited hardcover is $69.95.

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Ha, I knew about the poaching of wild Dudleyas but I hadn't heard they'd been assigned mascots by CNPS! With a powerhouse team like Spath, Griffin and Moore, I'm sure the book is excellent and I hope it does well in raising the profile of the plants in the right way.

    1. I think native plant nurseries (and others) are making an effort to provide seed-grown dudleyas to cut down on poaching.

  2. When I heard about it, I immediately ordered for the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society library. It is a great book, packed with information and beautiful photos as you have posted. It is coming to the meeting on Sunday afternoon and it will be checked out in a heartbeat! Thanks, Gerhard!

    1. You'll love it! Oddly enough, Dudleya saxosa ssp. collomiae, which is native to the Sonoran Desert Sky Islands, has been very difficult for me to grow.

  3. Beautiful photos, I definitely need to snag this book. I could use some help with some of my struggling a bit Dudleyas.

  4. You are right about scattered information on Dudleyas--hopefully this book will create more interest and understanding in growing these plants, and in preserving this wonderful genus in the wild.


Post a Comment