Introduction to Australian Succulent Plants
This book is primarily a pictorial introduction to the beauty and diversity of Australian succulent plants, serving as a useful identification guide for almost 100 species. An easy to read book for both the professional botanist and the home enthusiast. Those selected are a good representation of plants that are succulent and give a broad overview of the different genera, habitats and growth habits involved. While some of the plants included are common, othrs are rare and unusual, and most are insufficiently covered by general plant books and encyclopaedias. Each plant has a short, mostly non-technical description and numerous clear photographs showing it in its natural habitat wherever possible. The distinguishing features of all the succulent parts of each plant are shown or discussed to help with identification.
Succulent plants grow around the world in a range of climates and environments, not just in deserts as is generally assumed.
Desert or arid regions are mostly places of extremes, with very hot daytime and very cold night-time temperatures.
The most arid regions have very few succulent plants, mostly because they are too hot and dry.
Semi-arid or seasonally dry regions have the highest succulent plant diversity. These areas are found across most of Australia, sometimes even in tropical and other seasonally wetter parts of the country. In more moist and humid areas, there are some succulent plants that are found in drier micro-habitats, such as on exposed trees or rocks.
The African and American continents are well known for their remarkably abundant and interesting succulent plants.
Europe, Asia, Madagascar and the Canary Islands are also well recognised for their diverse succulent flora.
By comparison, Australia is seen by many as having relatively few, because, of the 20,000 or more Australian vascular plant species, about 400 can be regarded as succulent.
The introduced succulent plants found growing across Australia - with some present since the earliest European settlers - are now so widespread and established that they are often popularly regarded as natives. In many environments, native succulent plants are less obvious than introduced species and are often far less common. Both need to be considered in any study of those which are native.
Plants such as the introduced Bryophyllum delagoense and Opuntia tomentosa and the native Adansonia gregorii, Dendrobium speciosum, Halosarcia bulbosa, Hoya australis and Portulaca oleracea are all Australian succulent plants that share several common features.
They can all be found growing naturally across Australia, all utilise water storage mechanisms in the leaves, stems or roots, and are more sun and dry-tolerant than most plants.