Aeonium (2012)

By Chris Deem (February 2012)

In Morocco, near the port city of Agadir, stands a house of stone and a stone courtyard. From there, you can smell the acrid waters of the North Atlantic. In the courtyard, there is a stone path and an elaborate fountain. All of the plants there are of native origin and all are exquisitely kept. Still, a dark-hued melancholy always permeates the ocean-scented air.

This is not a place of frail flowers, but a somber place of pale grey-branched Euphorbia balsamifera shrubs, spine-covered E. officinarums and masses of dark purple Aeonium arboreum plants. Far above this courtyard, never stopping to perch, white sea birds can occasionally be seen as they fly out toward unseen lands.

The Canary Islands are the native habitat of most of the known Aeonium species. In researching these plants, however, I found a few species that grow on the Madeira Archipelago that are not found on the Canary Islands. A. arboreum is found in both Morocco and the Canary Islands. It is probable that this species and the Madeira species did originally come from the Canary Islands, but the reverse is also possible.

The attractive, winter-growing Aeonium genus is a part of the Crassulaceae family. The fact that these plants are winter growers is important to remember, because in the latter part of spring, many species can begin to look quite sickly. This time marks the beginning of their dormancy. The only other information I learned about aeoniums is that after any rosette flowers, sadly, it will die.