Succulents grow in the dry and arid deserts of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. This is why most succulents are drought-tolerant and are able to survive despite having very limited water for long periods of time.
What are succulents?
Succulents are plants that have natural water storage tissues which make them virtually drought-resistant. They are able to live in the driest places on earth because of all the water they can store in their bodies, including in their stems, branches, and leaves. The word succulent comes from the Latin word “sucus,” meaning sap or juice. In times of low water supply, succulents are also able to become dormant in order to conserve the little water and energy they have so they can concentrate on surviving. They need more water during their growing phase because they are maturing much more rapidly.
Is a cactus a succulent?
Yes, a cactus is a succulent, but some people think they belong in different groups. Cacti are one of the largest groups in the succulent world. Cacti store water inside their bodies, which by definition make them succulents.
Cacti have fleshy stems that store water. Their bodies have spines or hair, and a few others even have leaves. Because of their distinct appearance, it is not that difficult to identify a cactus when you see one.
So, simply put, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
What is the history of succulents?
Succulents that previously existed in only one corner of the world can now be bought at your local nursery because these once exotics plants have been sought by collectors to be added to their gardens.
Thousands of years ago, succulents only grew in the deserts and arid areas of the Americas, the European Alps, and Africa. Succulents were called the camels of the plant world because of their ability to go long periods without any water. This special quality of the succulent is what drew people towards domesticating them and putting them in the gardens near their homes. Succulents soon became known as ornamental plants because of the variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that they come in.
Over time, people began discovering more and more of the benefits of succulents. They found out that keeping certain succulents inside the house kept the pests away. Other cultures used succulents as natural sweeteners, such as the Agave plants. And the healing powers of the aloe vera have long been a part of various cultures worldwide.
What are some of the beliefs that people once had about succulents?
From our ancestors, there are several myths about succulents that still prevail even to this day.
Succulents attract wealth.
According to ancient Asian beliefs, the jade plant brought good luck and wealth to the family that owned it. The jade plant’s leaves and appearance are related to growth and renewal, which is why it was chosen as a symbol of prosperity.
Succulents keep your family prosperous and safe.
People used to believe that the houseleek helped keep evil out and kept the family in the house safe and prosperous. It was also said to protect the family from lightning, fire, and even witchcraft. This is why the Roman emperor Charlemagne ordered his entire empire to keep houseleeks in their homes.
Succulents can protect you from death.
The Sempervivum Tectorum is one of the many succulents that people believed could provide protection against death. People would put the plant on their rooftops for full effect. They said that if a stranger came along to remove the plant from the rooftop, bad luck or illness would come upon a member of the household. To this day, there are still people that place the plants on their rooftops in some parts of Wales.
Where do succulents come from?
There are native succulents in all parts of the world, except for the really cold areas. They mostly come from the deserts and dry areas of North and South America, Europe, and Africa. There are special succulents that have learned to survive in mountainous areas and even in the rainforests. In places where most other plants would not be able to survive because of extreme temperatures or lack of water, succulents are able to survive and adapt. There are also succulents that live near the coasts and dry lakes. Most plants would not like these areas because of the high mineral deposits.
Which countries have the most native succulents?
The climate in South Africa is semi-arid to arid, making it a perfect place to host succulents. Most of the land in South Africa is either hilly or flat and has little to no rain for most of the year. The highest temperatures can reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The country is known for its succulent karoo that stretches from southwestern Namibia to the South African west coast.
The most common succulents found in South Africa are the plush plant, ghost plant, panda plant, elephant bush, zebra plant, jelly bean plant, aloe zebrina, jade plant, and the Cotyledon orbiculate.
Mexico has a diverse collection of succulents as well because its climate is perfect for multiple succulent plant species. The land is hilly and dry with the temperatures going into the extremes.
The most common succulents in the country are the hooker orchid cactus, Moses in the cradle, ladyfinger cactus, seven stars, echinocereus viridiflorus, sedum allantoides, graptopetalum pentadrum, echeveria agavoides, and the echeveria elegans.
Succulents grow in the driest, most arid parts of the earth, specifically the deserts of the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Succulents are able to store water in their bodies and in their leaves which allow them to survive in the driest conditions. This quality is what makes succulents resilient and drought-tolerant.
Nowadays, the most exotic succulents can be found in your nearest nursery, which just proves how tough and adaptable these plants are.
Image: istockphoto.com / Anastaciia Petrova