Some ten thousand species of flowering plants are included beneath the umbrella-name of succulents—three or four percent of all known species, and representative of about twelve percent of all recognized Families. They possess certain features in common which catch the eye and evoke immediate reactions of admiration or distaste as do no other plants. They are diversified by seemingly endless variations in pattern and adornment, texture and colour, making them an ideal subject for collectors and enthusiasts. Their solidity and statuesque pose give the illusion of timeless immutability, but the observant cultivator finds delight in watching their continual changes throughout the seasons.
An encyclopedia is defined as a "literary work containing extensive information on all branches or one particular branch of knowledge..." I quote this lest anyone should be disappointed at not finding here an alphabetical catalogue of all the known species. For them, there are already handbooks by Jacobsen. Backeberg. Rauh. Haage and others, as cited in the refences starting on page 247. Most of the extensive literature on succulents, apart from strictly scientific monographs, is concerned with just two aspects: describing species, and expounding cultivation. Here the aim is different. It is to take an overall view of succulents as one element of the world flora, noting their distinguishing features in structure, mode of life, habitat, reproduction and survival, their evolution and
their sytematic classification. In this last, the emphasis is on the higher categories from genus upwards: individual species are mentioned not so much on their own account as for the tendencies and characteristics that they illustrate.'
Over the centuries botany has developed its own terminology: a beautiful and precise language that enables a plant to be exactly characterized in a few telegram-style sentences instead of a whole page of normal prose. Words like "cactus"
and "desert" have a special meaning, and it is a pity that current usage so often misapplies them. Each chapter in this book introduces some of these terms, familiarity with which will open the doors on a wealth of other reference books. Every term is defined where it first occurs and. should the reader miss this, he will find a glossary on page 249.
I am grateful to Charles Glass and to colleagues at Reading University who have read sections of the book and helped with ideas and criticisms from their own fields of expertise, to Geoff Rogers of Salamander Books for the meticulous care he has taken in seeing this book through the press, and to all those owners of copyright material who have permitted their work to be reproduced or adapted. A full list of acknowledgments will be found on page 256.
Below Longest established ol the large open-air plantings of succulents in North America the Huntington Botanical Gardens.
natural history. Certainly there is solace in the silent world of plants: a greenhouse is an ideal retreat from the cacophony of the city, and the popularity of books and plants. ;
The World of Succulents natural history. Certainly there is solace in the silent world of plants: a greenhouse is an ideal retreat from the cacophony of the city, and the popularity of books and off the beaten track, which would lose appeal if they became over-familiar. But equally potent in turning people's attention to the living world is the realization that it is steadily being driven back by man's increased use of the land and oceans. Succulents, more so than many other disappearing fast in their plants. ;
e homes, and unless steps are taken soon, many will be extinct before they alone tested for possible uses.
Both ledge and cultivation of one very special group of plants that excels in colonizing arid and inhospitable terrain. What are these succulents. these surrealist vegetables of the wilderness? How do they differ from other plants, and how do they flower, propagate and survive? The secret of their success touches upon many disciplines. including physiology, ecology, genetics and evolution. Surprisingly, despite much study, we still find gaps in our knowledge. In the search for new leads, we often discover that the bare truth is more beautiful than any of the gaudy myths with which the subject has been so generously draped for public display.
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