All About Plants
The word “succulent” pertains to a group of plants with thick and juicy stems, or leaves that are designed to save their water and minimize evaporation (Grantham & Klaassen, 10). Plants that have roots make it difficult to tell, if they are a succulent or not (10). Succulents are usually located in dry areas, where they are the only survivors, before the water runs out (10). Since they usually have small leaves or no leaves at all, they conserve water by reducing surface area, by which transpiration occurs (10). In the desert, the plant's stems do photosynthesis, instead or their leaves (10).
When a portion of light touches a molecule of chlorophyll, the green pigment of plant cells that are the receptors of light energy in photosynthesis, an electron, which is a subatomic particle with a negative electric charge, is raised to a higher energy level and transferred to an acceptor molecule to set off a flow of electrons (Raven, 1). With the exception of a few, living things that inhabit the earth are dependent on the energy that is momentarily gained from the electron (1). The process in which a portion of energy given up by the electron is returning to it's original energy level is converted into chemical energy is called photosynthesis (1).
Plants have many parts. Roots fasten plants into the ground and accumulate the water required for the plant's survival and continuation of photosynthesis (5). Its stems provide support for the principle photosynthetic organs, which are commonly known as leaves (5). A continuous stream of water moves through root hairs, up through the roots and stems, and then out through the leaves (5). Plant parts involved in photosynthesis are covered with a waxy cuticle that resists water loss (5). The cuticle, which is a waxy or fatty layer on the outer wall of epidermal cells, also prevents the necessary replacement of gases between the plant and surrounding air (5). Specialized openings called stomata, which open and close in response to environmental and physiological signals, solved this problem by helping the plant sustain stability between its water loss and its oxygen and carbon dioxide requirements (5).
In long-lived plants, the stem may become thickened and woody and covered with cork, which is a secondary tissue produced by a cork cambium, which is water loss resistant (6). Cork cambiums are the laternal meristems that establish the periderm, producing cork toward the shell of the plant and Phelloderm towards the inside (728).
The stem acts through the vascular system, which is any plant tissue or region consisting of, or giving rise to conducting tissue through a system, with a variety of substances involving the photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic parts of the plant body (6). Two major pieces of the vascular system are the xylem, which is a complex vascular tissue through which water passes upward through the plant body and the phloem, a complex vascular tissue through which food manufactured in the leaves and other photosynthetic parts of the plant is transported throughout the plant body (6). Plants growth originates in meristems, (localized regions of perpetually embryonic tissues), which is more commonly known as the indifferent plant tissue from which new cells arise (6).
The Denver Botanic Gardens introduced Delospermas in the 1980's, by distributing them to nurseries and publicizing them in display garden (60). Delospermas originally came from the savannahs of Africa, but are now used by people all over the world (60). Ice plants, which are part of the Delosperma family, have very little tolerance for wet areas and conditions (60). In fact, they like dry regions more (60). These plants are not only beautiful, but are weed resistant, because their mats are thickly intertwined with each other (61).
Delosperma cooperi is one of the best flowers known to mankind. They can spread three to four feet across and have inch long leaves (61). The leaves are green and plump and in the winter they often flush with purple (61). In some cases it they turn gray-purple (61). Since it is a succulent, it can also be more resistant of heat and drought (61).
Pachycereus pringlei (Cadon cactum) is the world's largest cactus (Chamlee, par. 1). Some of the its largest cactus measured nearly 70 ft. (21 m.) high and weighed up to 25 tons (par. 1). They are so long-lived that they can live over 300 years (par. 1). The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is so similar to it that many people get confused and mistake it for the other (par. 2). The main trunk of the cardon can have as many as twenty-five vertical branches, which can be up to 5 feet in diameter (par. 5). In older plants, the branches are usually taller than the trunk (par. 5). The cactus is especially spiny when it is smaller, so that it can protect itself from predators (par. 5). As they grow, many of the spines fall off and are not replaced (par. 5). Its columnar form presents greater surface area to the morning and evening sunlight, and less to the harsh sun of midday (par. 4). The branching pattern of the arm maximizes the efficient capture of solar radiation (par. 4). The cardon needs no leaves, because it is a true “cladophyl”-a plant that performs photosynthesis through its skin skin rather than through the leaves (par. 4). Modified epidermal cells in the skin of the stems, called “chlorenchyma” do the work of converting sunlight into energy (par. 4). Water loss durring photosynthesis is reduced through crassulacean acid meatabolism(CAM), a method of photosynthesis that the cardo shares with many of the cacti and succulents that inhabit the dry areas of the world (par. 4). The stomata, which is a small opening bordered by gaurd cells in the epidermis of leaves and stems through which gases pass, of these plants open only after dark, allowing the cactus to absorb carbon dioxide durring the cooler night hours, making these plants very water efficient (par. 4).
Rhipsalis is a plant family that is a succulent. It has a genus of over 60 south American species, mostly of epiphytic cacti (Faucon, par. 1). Some species are commonly found in Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka (par. 1). Its name comes from the Greek for “wicker”, in reference to the flexible branches of some species (par. 1). Many have hanging stems, which can sometimes be over 6 feet long (par. 1). They like arid areas, but will take temperature close to freezing for short periods (par. 2).
Rhipsalis baccifera is probably the most widely distributed species of cactus (Keith & Klaassen, 160 ). It can be found along the American Atlantic coast from Florida south throughout Mexico and Central America, and in South america into Brazil and westwards into Peru. It consists of a cluster of pencil-thin, stems (160). Durring late winter, it blooms with many white blooms (160). These berry-like fruits decorate the plant for many months (160).
The Alluada ascendens is commonly found along the southernmost coastal strip of Madagascar (Keith & Klaassen, 77). The stem can reach a hieght of 50 feet or more and its spines are 1-3cm. long. While their bark is a greeenish brown, the spines are almost white (77). The egg shaped leaves are ¾ inches long and are up to half a foot wide (77). The reddish flowers, located at the top, are up to 5 inches long (77).
Euphorbia milii var. splendens is part of the euphorbiacea succulent family (111). This plant, which is from Madagascar, is most likely the most cultivated of all succulent euphorbias (111). In Madagascar, this plant is used for hedging (112). Euphorbia milii var splendens have leaves that are 2 inches long and ½ in. Wide (112).
Grantham, Keith and Paul Klaasen. Cacti and Other Succulents. United Kingdom: David and Charles Publishers, 1999.
Kelaidis, Gwen. Hardy Succulents. China: Storey Publisher.
Raven, Peter. Biology of Plants. United States of America: Worth Publisher Inc, 1890.
Chamlee, Bob. “Cardón cactus, Pachycereus pringlei”. Los Cabos Guide To Eating More. 2001.Dec 6 2009. http://www.loscabosrestaurantguide.com/cardon_cactus.htm.
Philippe Faucon. “Rhipsalis”. Desert tropicals. 1998-2004. Dec 6 2009. < http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Cactaceae/Rhipsalis.html>.