Novel forms of growth

As if succulents were not curious enough already, they are more prone than most other plants to an abnormal type of growth known as fasciation: the growing apex of the stem broadens to form a crest, so that the normally cylindrical stem expands to become fan-shaped (2.23). Subsequent growth may contort the fan into irregular, brain-like masses. Such plants are referred to as crests or cristates (Latin cristatus). An allied phenomenon is the production of multiple growing points, creating an effect like the heart of a cauliflower, termed monstrous growth

Temporary fasciation or monstrosity may result from mechanical injury or the effects of chemical weedkillers, but other types are more or less permanent, and in some rare cases may even be inherited, the crests bearing flowers and the seedlings showing similar growth. Such growth changes arise in the first place from seed, or as a sport (mutation) on a normal plant; the cause is often impossible to ascertain. In the wild, cristate and monstrous plants are at a disadvantage and are eliminated in time, but in cultivation they can be perpetuated by cuttings or grafts, and because of their comparative rarity are much sought after by some collectors. A few of the more striking are worth including in any collection to add variety.

Among other growth changes that occur from time to time are spiralled ribs, absence of spines, disorganized ribs and proliferating flower buds. Such abnormalities fascinate many growers, but there is not much that one can say to explain them beyond the recognition that hormonal imbalance can cause a flower bud to proliferate into a shoot or vice versa, and virus infection is responsible for the cancer-like outgrowths that sometimes disfigure normal plants.

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