32nd Succulent Plants Symposium

Above, Dorstenia foetida in bloom
We attended the 32nd Huntington Succulent Plant Symposium on Saturday.  Speakers came from Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and even North Carolina for the event.  There were as many well-known succulent plant experts in the audience as speaking;  I recognized Myron Kimnach, Director Emeritus,  John Trager, Huntington Desert Collections Curator, Brian Kemble, Ruth Bancroft Garden Curator,  Tim Harvey, Cactus and Succulent Journal Editor, and Kelly Griffin, Aloe hybridizer extraordinaire.  
Lunch included a chance to taste succulent fruit;  unfortunately my tongue could detect no flavor at all, but what a color!
There was a silent auction of some super plants. No, I didn't win anything. 
At the break for lunch, there was time to go see what was blooming in the Desert Conservatory, but most of the day was taken up by the excellent speakers.
Astrophytum 'Funny Spots'
Mammilaria bocassana:
A few of the Mammilarias on display:
The first speaker was Tony Avent of Plant Delights in North Carolina.  Mr. Avent spoke about developing new Agave introductions.  Some exciting crosses are being created from Agave-Manfreda hybrids; watch for one in the near future called 'Kaleidoscope'; it's a stunner.  Agaves and Manfredas are closely related.  Polianthes is also a close relative.  Slightly less close but still related are, perhaps surprisingly, Hostas!  Mr. Avent described three methods used to force new offsets from interesting variegated sports;  I plan to try those methods and will blog about it soon.
Mammilaria albicans: 
From Tamaulipas, Mexico, José Guadalupe Martínez-Ávalos is a professor at the Instituto de Ecología Aplicada.  He told us about the flora of Tamaulipas.  Tamaulipas State is on the Gulf of Mexico just south of Texas, and contains numerous biomes, from coastal to rainforest to extreme desert.  The photographs of dramatic Tamaulipas landscapes and plants that accompanied his lecture were dazzling.
A Gymnocalycium:
Lots of pink in September, it seems.  Coryphantha hendricksonii:
Attila Kapitany from Australia talked about Australian succulent plants.  He and his wife travel all over Australia looking for them.  They discovered that roadsides have, surprisingly, become important places for the continued survival of some Australian plants.  First, rainfall drains off the pavement and into roadside soil, making that soil more moist than other areas.  Second, highway crews performing maintenance disturb the roadside soil, allowing seeds to scatter and germinate.  They do the job of soil disturbance once done by marsupials now extinct due to introduced small predators.  Without that disturbance, some plant's seeds could not sprout and grow.
Agave utahensis v. eborispina seeds: 
Agave utahensis var eborispina plant, dead.  Agave appalanta 'Cream Spike' to its lower left, a sweet little A. polyanthies below at lower right. 

After lunch and a mad dash to the Desert Conservatory, we next enjoyed the photography of Irwin Lightstone, who gave valuable instruction on digital photography of plants, including the technique of focus stacking, which is especially valuable for macro shots, as well as shots of plants with complex textures.  Mr. Lightstone's photography is often featured in The Cactus & Succulent Journal.  
A Haemanthus species bulb
The last speaker before dinner was Georg Fritz of the Suikerbosrand Natural Reserve, South Africa.  Suikerbos means "sugar bush", or Protea.  The Protea common to this region is Protea caffra.  Mr. Fritz explained the biomes on the eastern (summer rainfall) side of South Africa and showed us amazing plant photo after amazing plant photo that included exotics and rarities, but also familiar garden plants like Aloe ferox, Agapanthus, and Gladiola species in their native habitats.  Photos of Aloe marlothii sharing grassy hillsides with Cussonia paniculata were startling to me.  (Now I know why my Aloe marlothii has been untroubled by summer irrigation.)  The Aloes prefer sandstone soils;  the Cussonia prefers granite;  in areas where there are both types of stone, the plants are found together.  Bulbs, including Haemanthus, Albuca, and Crinum, as well as  stunning landscapes were also featured.  
Gerardanthus macrorhizus (male)
Aloe erinacea, Namibia:
Gasteria rawlinsonii, a cliff hanger from the Eastern Cape of South Africa
Tillandsia in flower:
The Echeverias were looking fabulous:
 Grapopetalums and Pachyphylums, too.
Some of the Echeverias were in flower:
Some Stapeliads were also blooming, or about to.

We had just a few minutes to look at the Desert Garden, though it was getting hot, anyway.  It was a beautiful day, with temperatures extremely mild for San Marino in September, the mid-80s Fahrenheit.  At last year's Symposium, I was told, it was 108 F. (42 C).  Glad I missed that...
Aha!  A blooming Aloe!

After Mr. Fritz's wonderful presentation, we had the chance to go to the nursery to buy plants and drink beer (or in my case, ice-cold water).  The plants in the foreground were collection plants and not for sale, but they were fun to look at. 
A whole bunch of Rhipsalis along that wall.  Wow, eh?  And oh, look in the lower right of the next photo...
Ohhhhh baby!  Wish that was for sale, though it's close to bloom size, isn't it?  It was sitting in a just a few inches of mix.  Re-rooting?
We missed the dinner, because we really had to get back home to the puppies.  It had already been a very full day.  We unfortunately missed the closing talk given by Jim Dice, manager of UCI's Anza-Borrego Research Center.
We headed for the exit, on the back side of the Children's Garden.  The Huntington was already closed for the day.  The place was empty and the shadows were lengthening.  
Since I'm vegetarian, missing the dinner was okay.

If you love succulent plants,  I highly recommend the 33rd Symposium next year.  It was a great day! 
Special thanks to Beloved, for patiently putting up with plant talk all day long, and to a very kind neighbor who let the puppies out for bathroom breaks while we were gone.  She claimed they behaved themselves. 


  1. Next year you say? Hmmm, sounds like fun!

  2. Nice mix, but that Aloe erinacea, wow!

    1. Yes, isn't that an exquisite specimen? The light in the Conservatory was really soft, and made every plant look that much better.

    2. That aloe was amazing! You captured everything very well!

  3. Ye gods -- great speakers/presentations, great plants, a plant sale, the Desert Garden... what a day. The Agave-Manfreda hybrids sound wonderful, and I'm so glad you plan to write about Tony Avent's methods for forcing offsets. That Aloe erinacea...! Next year... (There's a Garden Talk and Plant Sale this week, on the 10th, but I don't think I can get away.) Terrific report!

    1. There didn't seem to be a lot of interesting stuff for sale, unfortunately, but perhaps I was just completely overwhelmed by then. Mr. Kapitany is also the speaker on the 10th, and he was excellent.

      Another Aloe erinacea fan! Yay! :)

  4. Such exciting plants! (some of them at least) and I'm glad to learn about focus stacking. I'll need to investigate...

    1. I thought of your excellent macro shots, matter of fact. This technique could make them even better. Mr. Lighthouse said it helped to practice moving the focus of the lens a uniform, tiny amount at a time. He said he would practice while he watched TV.

  5. What a great day! It is so heartening to read that humans building stuff and tearing up the landscape (road crews in Australia) are actually, this time, helping to save native fauna!

    1. Ironic, isn't it? But a happy result.

  6. That hairy little Mamillaria bocassana with the satiny pink flowers---- squeeeeee! So cute.

  7. That's a very packed day but it does make it worth the drive. I really have to tune into the Huntington's schedule.

    1. Mr. Kapitany is speaking again on Thursday, with a plant sale to follow, (if you can take 105F). The auditorium is nicely air conditioned...

  8. Sounds like a heavenly day. That final agave - just gorgeous!

    1. It exceeded expectations. It was fun being in a whole room of people ooohing and aaahing over plants. Yes, that Agave...swoon!

  9. That close-to-blooming agave...woooowwwweeeee! What a fantastic event that must have been.


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