From the Digest

Big and Tall

PhotoBy Joe Merkelbach (October 2012)

Looking at the entries in this year’s show, I was struck by the idea of how large some of our plants can get in habitat.

One of my entries, Aloe dichotoma, a show-worthy specimen which I received last year, was grown to reflect this notion. The plant in its native southwestern Africa habitat is a tree form that grows up to 30 feet tall with a top about 20 feet wide. A bare extended conical trunk with dried remaining stubs of leaves as the surface material makes up about half the tree height.

The crown of A. dichotoma is formed by repeated bifurcated branching of stems that end in whorls up about half the tree height. The goal I have in growing my specimen is to present a plant that has this natural appearance, though on a much smaller scale.

The quiver tree is one of the largest succulents, but it is dwarfed by the baobab tree. Adansonia digitata, the monkeybread tree native to Africa, is considered the largest succulent on earth. It can grow nearly 80 feet tall and have a girth of nearly 70 feet.

The accepted largest cactus is found in southern Arizona, the giant saquaro of the Sonoran Desert. This plant can live to nearly 200 years old and reach enormous size. Mature specimens can be up to 60 feet and weigh up to 12,000 pounds when fully hydrated. Although the specimens that I saw in the show were not near that size, they did have the columnar and ribbed shape of plants in habitat.

It is a good idea to get an image of our specimens as they look in maturity while growing in habitat and have that inform our growing practices. Whether we have full-size plants or just small examples of really big specimens, we should try to reflect something of how they live in nature.

PlantZAfrica –
Wikipedia –
Desert Tropicals –
DimensionsInfo –
U.S. National Park Service – Saguaro Cactus.pdf