Adromischus (2014)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (October 2014)

Adromischus is in the family Crassulaceae. The election of the genus name Adromischus was done by Lemaire in 1852. The name comes from the Greek “adros” (thick) and “mischos” (stem). In Lexicon of Succulent Plants, Jacobsen lists 32 species. In their book Adromischus, Pilbeam, Rodgerson and Tribble rely on Helmut Tölkens’ 1978 work, where he produced a complete revision of the genus. Tölken divided the species into five sections based mostly on floral characteristics.

Each section of the genus has a distinctive distribution pattern throughout the Cape in South Africa. Oddly, species within a section rarely overlap, and with a few exceptions, one almost never finds two species from the same section growing together. The sections are identified as Section 1, Adromischus (eight species); Section 2, Boreali (three species); Section 3, Brevipendunculati (six species); Section 4, Incisilobati (six species) and Section 5, Longipedunculati (five species).

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” One could imagine Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) speaking these words while gazing at a collection of Adromischus when he was brainstorming on the plants he would incorporate into his books. “Whimsical” is a word that comes to mind when considering the descriptions of plants in this genus.

Adromischus plants are small, clumping leaf succulent shrublets. Two forms of A. marianiae are shown in the photo above. A. marianiae “herrei,” one of the most unusual and desirable plants in the genus, is on the left. The leaves of the plants are every shape imaginable, with no end to variations in texture, color and spots. Some plants in the genus have abundant aerial roots, which quickly die off but are persistent.

PhotoThe most iconic species is A. cristatus. Two examples can be seen above, with A. cristatus on the left and A. cristatus var. clavifolius on the right. These and the adromischus pictured earlier all belong in Section 5, Longipedunculati.

Most species can be propagated by individual leaves, which need to be detached right where the leaves join the stem. Leaves will develop roots on the heel of the leaf and can then be potted. The plants need a free-draining soil mix, which should dry between waterings. Too little water results in plants dropping leaves, and too much water will likely rot the roots..

Adromischus plants develop the most dramatic shapes, colors and markings when grown in the brightest light possible. However, care should be exercised in getting high light levels without burning the plants. This can be accomplished with a top shelf location and plenty of ventilation and air movement with fans.

Many species will grow for years in the same small pot. With the ease of starting new plants with a single leaf, it’s always a good idea to have a few new plants started from leaves in the event that your main plant fails.