By the 1970s, Lotusland was attracting the attention of serious succulent enthusiasts, including Charles Glass, editor for the Cactus and Succulent Journal. Glass and his colleague Robert Foster saw Lotusland as important for current and future students of botany. Worried the garden may not survive beyond Madame Walska’s death, they came to Lotusland to work, starting with a 1973 renovation of the Succulent Garden. Originally created in the 1940s, the succulent garden had drainage issues. If you have grown succulents then you may know that the roots of succulents can be quite sensitive to excess water. Too much water prevents roots from getting enough oxygen, and may lead to root rot. To benefit the health of the succulents, Glass and Foster added materials to the soil that could improve drainage, also known as amending the soil, and increased the height of some planting beds.
Adaptations for Drought:
Succulents are adapted to survive periods of drought by storing large amounts of water in their stems, leaves, or roots. As you walk the succulent garden, see if you can identify where each succulent is storing its water. Many have thick, fleshy leaves, while others have enlarged stems and roots. These water storage capabilities make succulents an ideal target for predation among thirsty wildlife in dry environments, and so many succulents have also developed defense mechanisms including spines, poisonous sap, and coloration that provides camouflage. Cactus and euphorbia are both kinds of succulents.
You may have noticed during your walk through Lotusland that Madame Walska had a fondness for situating artifacts among her plants, such as statues, minerals, and coral. The statues in this garden came from the garden of Madame Walska’s friend, Dr. Austin, whose estate is located down the street. Once positioned in the Theater Garden among the grotesques, several of these figures represent classic mythological characters from antiquity, such as a childlike Pan, Greek god of the wild, and two statuettes of young Bacchus, the Roman god associated with wine.
Native to South Africa, this strange looking plant is supremely adapted to its hot, dry environment. Looking to its half-submerged tuberous stem, you can see the storage that allows it to survive even the harshest water conditions. This condition of having a fattened stem or root for nutrient or water storage is known scientifically as a caudiciform.
Echeveria elegans “hens and chicks”:
These rosette succulents are native to Mexico. They get their common name because the tendency for baby plants, known as offsets, to be produced around the mother plant. Many species of plants produce offsets, aiding in species survival. However, because offsets are exact replicas, or clones, seed dispersal is still vital to produce the genetic variability so important to the evolution and long term survival of species.
Notable plants: Interesting forms here include caudiciform succulents like Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei). Other succulents in this garden are Aeonium, Fouquieria, and Kalanchoe. Mass plantings of Echeveria and Haworthia act as groundcover. Calibanus hookeri; Bowiea volubilis – climbing onion; Cyphostemma sp.; Dioscorea elephantipes – Elephant’s foot; Echeverria “hens & chicks”