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Succulent of the Week (2011-02-28) Senecio deflersii

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:16 am
by lancer99
Senecio deflersii



The Pickle Plant is an unusual succulent, easy to grow, with some interesting flower characteristics.

Growth Habit: One or a few highly succulent stems, round in cross section, up to 4-6" inches in habitat, but often much taller in cultivation. The leaves, which are "quickly deciduous" (i.e. they dry up almost immediately) are tiny.

Scientific name: Senecio deflersii O. Schwartz

Common name(s): Pickle plant, and another name which is not appropriate for this family-friendly forum :) .

Etymology: Generic name from the Latin "senex," old man, referring to the white hairs at the end of the seeds. Think of a dried dandelion flower, and how each individual seed has a "crown" of white hairs that help it to be carried by the wind. "Deflersii" in honor of its discoverer.

Taxonomy: Described as S. deflersii by O. Schwartz in 1939, then moved to Kleinia deflersii by Halliday in 1984. Notonia obesa, described by Deflers in 1894 and moved to Kleinia obesa by Halliday in 1988, is now included in S. deflersii. Since Kleinia and Notonia are now considered part of Senecio, O. Schwartz's description takes precedence.

Distribution: South Yemen.

Cultivation: Another easy grower. Average succulent soil, and make sure it dries out between waterings. I give mine a reasonable drink, but not enough to saturate the entire pot, every 3-4 weeks over the winter. An easy way to tell if you're underwatering it is that the stems start to shrink and become almost triangular in cross section, rather than round. If that happens, don't worry -- it will recover.

Flowers: Terminal (at the end of the stems), and as is typical for the Compositae, what looks like a single flower is actually composed of multiple flowers (see "Notes" if you're interested). The flower heads are about 2.5 cm in diameter, and my plant flowers in mid- to late November.



Minimum temperature: The Southern coast of Yemen never gets below 70 degrees, but I suspect this species may be from further inland, where temperatures get close to freezing. I keep it at a minimum of 55 degrees and have never had any problems.

Conservation Status: Not listed. Common in cultivation.

Notes: A characteristic of the Compositae is their unique flower structure. Think of a looks like a typical flower, with petals surrounding the center of the flower. But in fact, the center is composed of many tiny individual flowers, called "florets." The florets in the center ("disc florets") often have very reduced petals, and are barely recognizable as individual flowers, whereas those around the edge ("ray florets") have a single, greatly enlarged petal.


S. deflersii is a little unusual in this respect, in that there are no ray florets, and the petals of the disc florets aren't reduced so much that you can't recognize them as individual flowers.


And it does branch, eventually :)