The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       December 2003      Number 12

Welcome Weeds
by Stephen Cooley

Little succulent surprises keep popping up in my pots and in my mesemb garden. Seeds, hitching a ride on the wind, splashing with the water, traveling with the soil, and catapulting through the air, are coming up where I didn't put them. Weeds? That has such a harsh ring to it. Still, I guess that is what they are. Needless to say, I treat these particular weeds different than their unwelcome compatriots the dandelions, grasses, spurge (non-succulent types of course), knotweed, and lambsquarters.

I have been keeping an eye on these weeds for some time now and when conditions are right, they can be almost as bothersome as the "real" kind. In the ground I find that some Drosanthemum will seed quite well, as will some Glottiphyllum, Delosperma, Pleiospilos, Aridaria and Marlothistella (These are all mesembs, which is what I grow - mostly). Others require more care and become weeds in pots where water and warmth are more consistent. Euphorbia, Bergeranthus, Aloinopsis, Anacampseros, Disphyma, and even Pelargonium have moved about among my pots.

Cacti in general are not good weeds, at least in my garden. I have had a few errant cacti come up in pots, but have not had any in the ground despite loads of neglected fruit scattered on the ground.

Though the fate of a weed is often not a good one, many of my succulent weeds find a new home in a pot or in their own plot of ground and live out the rest of their days in respectability.

A young Anacampseros quickly crowds these much older, and slower growing, Epithelantha.
Many Anacampseros hold their fruits up on stalks where the lightweight seeds easily fly around and find new homes. Being tolerant of a wide range of conditions makes Anacampseros well suited to weediness. Fortunately, it looks nice and has pretty flowers. I prick out the weeds and pot them up. When they're big enough, I've never failed to sell them all at the Show & Sale.

A seedling of
Delosperma bosseranum
threatening a young
Echinocactus horizonthalonius.

Delosperma bosseranum is a miniature mesemb that forms a large swollen root. The tops, however, are floppy and the flowers are minute. Due to its free-flowering and copious seed production, it has quickly worn out its welcome.

Young Glottiphyllums staying close to Mom.

Glottiphyllum, with its large, squishy leaves that feel just like a slug without slime, is noted for the ease of which those leaves can become scarred. Don't be fooled by this apparent fragility, because it is practically indestructible. Glottiphyllum is happy in the sun or shade, with lots or little water, in the ground or in a pot. It grows easily and quickly from seed (often flowering within a year!). This makes it a good candidate for weediness and sure enough, I have it spreading around my mesemb garden.

Aloinopsis malherberi
makes an appearance with
Aloe ramosissima.

I wouldn't consider Aloinopsis malherberi a weed in the traditional sense of spreading itself around, but with a little help from me, it did just that. I had harvested some seeds from Aloinopsis malherberi and planted them. After a month or so of no germination, I decided that the seed was no good and threw out the pot. It seems that all the seed needed was a second chance and many made their appearances with plants that had been repotted with previously used soil.

A Euphorbia obesa jumps over
to meet a Nananthus vittatus.

Euphorbia obesa, the always popular 'Baseball Plant,' is well known among growers for its ability to jump around the nursery. Though male and female flowers are on separate plants, it has no trouble hybridizing with other Euphorbias and seed pods are not uncommon. Those who have never harvested the seed will be in for a surprise as they look one day to find the entire capsule missing from the plant. This is because Euphorbia obesa disperses its seeds explosively - shattering the seed pod and sending the seeds several feet.

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