January 08, 2022

Melissa called me out to the porch greenhouse yesterday to see one of the new blooms on her succulents.  Her holiday cacti blooms have been flourishing and I assumed they were again the cause for her excitement.  It seems every day there are more blooms on the four plants and the previous blooms have continued to fully expand.  Many of the greenhouse succulents and cacti are winter dormant but several (including the holiday) are winter growers.  The mix of warmth and intermittent cold have prompted Melissa’s barbertonicus to bloom.    

When I looked online, I found the Barberton groundsel or succulent bush senecio (Senecio barbertonicus Klatt) is an evergreen succulent shrub of the family Asteraceae and genus Senecio.  It is native to Southern Africa and is named after Barberton, one of its native localities, although it is now cultivated elsewhere for its drought resistance.  The barbertonicus bush grows to over 6 feet (2 m) tall and wide with a fleshy trunk.  The bush has light green, cylindrical, finger-like leaves 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) in length and 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 inches (6 to 10 mm) in diameter.  These are densely packed around the stem and curved at the base to lie parallel to the stem and pointing upwards.  Barbertonicus is hardy to at least 25F (−4C).  The flowers form clusters of sweetly scented, golden-yellow, tufted flower heads in winter that are attractive to butterflies.  Our bush is one foot (1/3 m) high and for some reason has yet to attract butterflies to our greenhouse porch this winter.

Carl Linnaeus published his Systema Naturae in 1735, which contained his taxonomy for organizing the natural world.  Linnaeus proposed three kingdoms (animal, vegetable, mineral), which were divided into classes.  From classes, the groups were further divided into orders, families, genera (singular: genus), and species.  An additional rank beneath species distinguished between highly similar organisms.  While his system of classifying minerals has been discarded, a modified version of the Linnaean classification system is still used to identify and categorize animals and plants.  As I researched the scientific names of everal of the succulents, I have noticed they end with a surname or a capital letter (example: Senecio barbertonicus Klatt or Crassula tetragona L.) following the scientific species name.  What I found is these refer the scientist (Friedrich Wilhelm Klatt and Carl Linnaeus respectively) who originally identified and classified the plant.  Seems a good way to make sure people know your name.

Thoughts:  Other common names for the barbertonicus are Barberton coltsfoot, lemon bean bush, and finger-leaved senecio.  As mentioned previously, common names have more to do with characteristics than genetic relationships.  While the common name may be easier to remember they are confusing as the name often refers to several different species.  The news recently announced a growing number of “fluvid”cases.  While this sounds like a new variant of virus, it refers to someone who has managed to contract both viruses simultaneously.  Even though this is a recent news item, simultaneous cases have been identified as early as January of 2020.  Perhaps the increased use of the term is also another way to get noticed.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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