Moroccan Mound

Moroccan Mound

Another popular plant at Sunnylands is the Moroccan Mound, which grows in a dome shape created from chunky square stems. In the right conditions, it can spread up to 30 feet, but in the gardens, it’s spread is a maximum of 3 feet. It does well in poor soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. The plant can be grown for visual interest as its sculptural shape does catch attention.

Euphorbias have a unique flower from other genera. In late winter or early spring, they grow what is called a cyathium (plural – cyathia), which is a small flower cluster. On Moroccan Mound, the flowers are bright yellow and grow along the plant margins near the tops of the stems.

Moroccan Mound is native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Lady Slipper/Slipper Flower

Lady Slipper/Slipper Flower

One of the most asked about plants in the gardens is the Lady Slipper, which is best described as a cluster of giant green beans growing directly out of the ground. This plant grows upright for about a foot or two and then drapes over or twists around into a truly sculptural display. This perennial succulent can be grown in the ground or in pots as a focal point, but it also does well as a backdrop to smaller plants. It is extremely versatile with one exception. It cannot be grown in locations that freeze, unless it can be brought inside during the cold months.

In summer, bracts (modified leaves) appear at some tips of the plant. They display a red triangular bloom, which looks like a tiny red slipper. The fun of this plant is that it can be propagated by seed and by cuttings, so collecting one stem can result in additional plants.

Lady Slipper is a native of the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora.

Euphorbia vs. Cactus

Euphorbias may be referred to as an “Old World” plant compared to those that are Cactaceae (cactus), which are referred to as a “New World” plant. “Old World” refers to plants with origins in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The “New World” refers to North, Central, and South America. While possibly meaningful for the purpose of biogeographic classifications, it is problematic because it places a colonial lens on the origin of species.

The origin of these terms according to the World Atlas:

‘‘Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine explorer, coined the term New World (Mundus Novus). He quoted the term in a letter he had written to his friend Lorienzo di Pier in the spring of 1503. In his letter, he asserted that the lands discovered by European navigators were not the edges of Asia as Christopher Columbus stated. Instead, they belonged to an entirely distinct continent, the “New World.” Another explorer, the Italian born Peter Martyr, supported the context of the New World. He used the term ‘Orbe Novo’ translated as ‘New Globe’ upon discovering the Americas in 1511.”

Euphorbias are indeed found in the Americas. Some Euphorbias at Sunnylands are native species to the Americas, so those looking for native species in the gardens can include this species on that list.

A better way to distinguish Euphorbia, which can sometimes look similar to a cactus, is by the white, milky latex that is in Euphorbia. Cactus will have a clear sap. This latex does have a toxicity level and may cause skin rashes if handled.

Formerly called Pedilanthus macrocarpus. 

Gopher Plant

Gopher Plant

The steel, blue-green Gopher Plant is unique in the gardens. It grows upward on stalks with leaves equally distributed down its stem. When planted among smooth agaves and aloes, it adds interest and contrast to their form. It only requires occasional water and can handle poor and/or rocky soil.

When Gopher Plant blooms, it forms a cluster of flowers in chartreuse bracts (modified leaves). The flower shape is reminiscent of a view through a kaleidoscope in its round, symmetrical pattern. This bee favorite is stunning when in full bloom, and when the blooms dry out, they continue to provide visual interest. Stems can be cut all the way down to the plant base after it blooms, where new stems will regrow.

This Euphorbia is native to southern Asia and southwestern Europe.

Candelilla

Candelilla

The name Candelilla is attributed to more than one source. It is associated with the shape in which it grows, resembling a cluster of little tapered candles, but also because it is used as a source of wax. The species name of antisyphilitica references medicinal qualities associated with this plant.

Candelilla prefers limestone slopes and hillsides on which it can capture water flowing down in the rainy seasons. Its identification as a medicinal plant, along with its sourcing for wax, has resulted in over-harvesting in its native regions.

After rains in the spring and summer, it forms a stunning display of pink flowers up and down the stems. The seedpod that follows resembles a tiny lantern hanging off the stem. It is really a stunning bloom, but the very small flowers are about the size of a pencil eraser and are best viewed close up to see their incredible detail.

In the United States, it is found in Texas and southern New Mexico, and in Mexico it is found in Chihuahua, Coahuila, Hidalgo, and Querétaro.

Euphorbia vs. Cactus

Euphorbias may be referred to as an “Old World” plant and compared to those that are Cactaceae (cactus) which are referred to as a “New World” plant. “Old World” refers to plants with origins in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The “New World” refers to North, Central, and South America. While possibly meaningful for the purpose of biogeographic classifications, it is problematic because it places a colonial lens on the origin of species.

The origin of these terms according to the World Atlas:

‘‘Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine explorer, coined the term New World (Mundus Novus). He quoted the term in a letter he had written to his friend Lorienzo di Pier in the spring of 1503. In his letter, he asserted that the lands discovered by European navigators were not the edges of Asia as Christopher Columbus stated. Instead, they belonged to an entirely distinct continent, the “New World.” Another explorer, the Italian born Peter Martyr, supported the context of the New World. He used the term ‘Orbe Novo’ translated as ‘New Globe’ upon discovering the Americas in 1511.”

Euphorbias are indeed found in the Americas. Some Euphorbias at Sunnylands are native species to the Americas, so those looking for native species in the gardens can include this species on that list.

A better way to distinguish Euphorbia, which can sometimes look similar to a cactus, is by the white, milky latex that is in Euphorpia. Cactus will have a clear sap. This latex does have a toxicity level and may cause skin rashes if handled.

African Bulbine

African Bulbine

African Bulbine was part of the original plant list for the Center & Gardens. After struggling for a few seasons, it was removed. In 2018, the Sunnylands landscape team decided to give it another try, and so far it has shown success. This beautiful Euphorbia creates a delicate display of bright green leaves that form a rosette, but its long, narrow leaves look more like a mounding grass with tall flowering stalks. It has been doing well in the shaded parts of the gardens while showing some sensitivity in full sun.

The bloom is an orange and yellow star shape with six distinct petals that reach back, away from the fuzzy, yellow stamen. Seedpods are small, and when mature, the seeds are dispersed to the mercy of desert winds to carry them to a suitable germination spot.

Its origin is the African continent and its range extends from South Africa north to Mozambique.