Trichodiadema bubosum (2013)

PhotoBy Don Lesmeister (July 2013)

I first joined our society several years ago, after a time spent collecting bonsai trees and then realizing at my age, I better buy some pretty old and hardy ones. Shortly after that revelation, I wandered into a meeting with one of the only succulents I had ever owned at the time – a quite mushy and overwatered Euphorbia obesum in a plastic Dierbergs bag – and asked if anyone knew why my nice big plant turned into a squishy mess.

I realized during the meeting there was something appealing to this cactus and succulent collecting, and the group of people attending were interesting and nice. So, not knowing whether this sort of people were attracted to succulents or the plants had that sort of influence upon them, I became intrigued with the whole idea.

Not feeling safe from wandering too far from the tree idea, one of the first plants I acquired was a Trichodiadema bulbosum, A South African caudiciform succulent from the Port Elizabeth area. It is a cold-hardy (to 25 degrees F) plant and is quite forgiving concerning soil and water, although it does prefer soil that drains well.

It produces long stems and branches heavily, forming a low, rounded shrub. The caudex forms underground and over time can be raised above ground for show purposes. The leaves are cylindrical, bright green to grey with a crown of soft, white bristles. The flowers are small, violet to purple-red and will bloom from spring to autumn.

These attractive little plants prefer a part-shade position (some early or late sun), but again are quite tolerant as to sun exposure.

Unlike some of the other succulents, which can be quite poisonous, Trichodiadema bulbosum has been used for speeding the fermentation of bread, beer, etc. using the yeast or sugars found in the plant. So for all you bakers and brewers out there, here is a great plant that is a joy to raise and useful, as well. Try one out!