Tom Karwin, On Gardening | Naming your own succulents – Santa Cruz Sentinel


Care to your own garden

Two recent adventures have concentrated my attention on the identification of crops, especially succulent plants.

One event proved to be a current Cactus & Succulent Society of America webinar where Elizabeth Sarnes shared her visits to some region of Argentina. After seeing the webinar, I remarked how these reports by plant-hunting travelers give rise to our gardening world by introducing us to new plants in exotic surroundings which aren’t too different from our own.

More lately, I attended a virtual garden tour introduced by the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, through that Roger Lane, among those Society’s members, introduced photographs of plants in his house garden and remarked on their own resources, ages and traits. He has been growing succulent crops for some 40 decades and has generated a remarkable collection of both familiar and (for me) unknown plants, most of which are very mature.

Both sessions left me amazed how these enthusiastic collectors of cacti and succulents might easily name a lot of plants which were unknown to me, even though years of developing plants that are related in my garden.

They might demonstrate such experience due to many things, such as plant information offered by guides in exotic lands, growers in cactus and succulent displays, and skillful growers that are members of local plant societies. They may also pursue formal research in botany, horticulture, or plant taxonomy, or self-directed studying of books in those areas.

Also significant in the evolution of this experience are great memories and record-keeping.

Home gardeners who develop and appreciate a variety of plants could be successful when they understand the botanical names of the crops. Those titles would be the gateways to complete details regarding a plant’s attributes and developing demands, past the terse phrases on industrial plant tags.

In this circumstance , we consider ways to identify the plants in your own garden.

To learn how to identify cactus and succulentsconnect into ”3 Ways to Identify Your Succulents” ( This article cites Facebook classes, sites, and also a cactus & succulent forum, however, doesn’t mention one of my favorites: National Gardening Association’s Plant I.D. Forum (, that responds to queries about all sorts of crops

For aid in identifying different crops in your backyard, hunt the web for “how to identify [your plant]” to detect the available sources.

Several federal garden societies maintain sites with databases of crops of their specific interest. Examples comprise the American Iris Society’s complimentary Iris Encyclopedia, coordinated by the numerous groups of irises (, and the American Rose Society’s subscription Modern Rose database, home to more than 37,000 registered roses (

Advance your gardening knowledge

For a brief introduction to the names of succulent plants, video the video, “Tricky Names” video at Annie Schreck provides an informal introduction to botanical Latin and /plant taxonomy (you might want to view this fast-paced talk more than once). She also points to lots of succulent plant info at, the “the ultimate succulent store”. This an information-age gardening resource that shares knowledge without you having to buy anything.

The Cactus & Succulent Society of America will present a webinar on Epiphytic Cacti at 10 a.m. March 6. This is an interesting topic that could be of interest even to experienced gardeners of succulent plants. For preparatory information, visit this website: / what-are-epiphytic-cacti/. For information on the CSSA webinar, mark the date as well as see next week’s column.

The San Francisco Succulent & Cactus Society has announced these upcoming webcasts:

March 16: Rob Nixon “Succulents of the US Mexico Border.”
April 20: Yucca – Brian Kemble.
For more information, browse into

Enrich your gardening days

Much of the enjoyment of gardening involves direct contact with plants and the soil in which they grow, known as “getting our hands dirty.” We can broaden this enjoyment through lifelong learning about plants, including reading, projects of plant identification, and visits to webinars on esoteric topics.

Another important way to enrich your gardening days is membership in the local garden society of your choice. You could join the society of your choice right now in anticipation of in-person meetings in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, stay safe and enjoy your garden.

Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and Monterey Bay Iris Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member and garden coach for the Santa Cruz Hostel Society. To see daily photos from his garden, To search an archive of previous On Gardening columns, go to

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