Tough crit­ters, great grow­ers

Kapi-Mana News - - GARDENING - By VICKI PRICE

What bet­ter plant to think about in these wet con­di­tions than a cac­tus – not be­cause it is a mois­ture-lov­ing plant, but be­cause it can re­mind us of what dry­ness ac­tu­ally looks like in this wet spring.

A break in the clouds gave an op­por­tu­nity for a short stroll around the gar­den and in among the drenched shrubs on the bank by the drive­way, I no­ticed the creep­ing suc­cu­lent cut­tings I poked in the soil last au­tumn are gear­ing up to flower. They’ll be cheery lit­tle daisies of pink, beam­ing at the sky look­ing for sun when they do open.

Hope­fully, by then there will be some sun.

Suc­cu­lent plants grow in dry places and have evolved to be able to store mois­ture in their leaves and stems. With some­where around 1100 kilo­me­tres of coastal sand dunes in New Zealand, there is plenty of scope for suc­cu­lents to grow here in their own shift­ing sands en­vi­ron­ments.

Along our New Zealand coastal sand dunes there are zil­lions of lit­tle plants do­ing their best to sur­vive in an ev­er­chang­ing grow­ing medium, with some­times ex­treme changes in tem­per­a­ture oc­cur­ring at their root sys­tems be­tween night and day. Their roots, how­ever, aid in the life of the dunes, hold­ing them in place and shap­ing them, along with the wind.

Ice plant Dis­phyma aus­trale is a na­tive suc­cu­lent that has medi­um­sized pale daisy flow­ers. The larger and brighter yel­low flow­ers of an­other com­mon suc­cu­lent be­long to the South African Me­sem­bryan­the­mum ed­ule, re­lated species.

Many of the other suc­cu­lent seashore plants be­long to the beet fam­ily and have var­i­ous strate­gies for sur­viv­ing here. Peper­o­mia urvil­lana has wa­ter-stor­ing cells on the top of each leaf. Its fleshy flower spikes have tiny flow­ers set within sunken set­tings like jew­els, pro­tected from the el­e­ments.

Suc­cu­lents and cacti are tough and make for great first indoor gar­dens.

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