June 22, 2022

One of the succulents we took to the last Farmer’s market was an echeveria plant Melissa had been tending for the last two years.  The plant had slowly grown to expand into the brightly colored 8-inch (20 cm) pot Melissa had purchased from Mexico.  As the plant matured it sent out two 24-inch (60 cm) stems.  Since we were worried about the stems getting knocked over in transit, I propped them up with a section of fly rod I had closed in the car door and broken the tip off last year.  While I was disappointed the echeveria did not sale, perhaps it was for the best.  When I took Zena for a walk last night, I noticed the stems were now covered with bright orange flowers.

When I looked online, I found Echeveria “Curly Locks” is a succulent belonging to the Crassulaceae botanical family.  The plant is a rare hybrid and has a nursery origin, being artificially generated by Harry Butterfield starting from two specimens of Echeveria ‘Ruffles’ and Echeveria ‘Ripples’.  The curly locks are stemless and spineless and have a rosette of leaves which can grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter.  Leaves are fleshy, flat, elongated obovate, wavy at the apex, blue green in color, and when exposed to bright sunlight the ruffled edges turn pinkish red.  At maturity the rosette grows a tall bare stem to support the flowers.  Blooming occurs in late spring and early summer and blossoms are borne by the long stalks.  The flowers are bell-shaped, thin, bright yellow inside and pale pink outside.  All echeveria need bright sunlight to maintain their colors and compact rosette form.  They will not survive a hard frost, and if they are grown in areas where temperatures drop below 50F (10C) it will need to be placed indoors on a sunny windowsill or under a grow light.  That would be Arkansas.

The name Echeveria comes from Atanasio Echeverria y Godoy, a naturalist, botanist, and Mexican artist of the late 1700’s who painted and assisted on the discovery and cataloging of Mexico’s natural flora.  The genus Echeveria was named in his honor by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle.  Echeverría joined Martin de Sessé y Lacasta and Mariano Mociño Suárez de Figueroa in Mexico City in 1787 on their Royal Botanical Expedition to New Spain.  The goal of the venture was to compile an inventory of the flora and fauna of New Spain.  In 1791, Echeverria continued onto the California portion of the expedition, where he made images of 200 different plant species.  In 1794, Echeverría traveled to the Caribbean with Sessé and botanist Jaime Senseve.  The group landed in Havana, Cuba, and later traveled to Puerto Rico, but the political instability caused by the Napoleonic Wars meant the project was not completed and Echeverría left the expedition in 1797.  Echeverría joined the Guantanamo Commission under Conte de Mopox y Jaruco and traveled across Cuba collecting 3,700 specimens and describing 27 new species.  Later, Echeverría briefly traveled to Madrid before returning to Mexico to become art director at the Academy of San Carlos.  His descriptions and images of the echeveria were invaluable.

THOUGHTS:  Echeveria is also known as “Mexican Hens & Chicks” and can produce new offsets or “chicks” around the base of the mother plant.  These chicks can be left to form a tidy cluster or removed and transplanted.  While Echeveria are one of the easiest succulents to propagate, curly locks is a hybrid and propagation can only be done by cutting.  Cutting is best done in spring as the plant begins to come out of winter dormancy.  One of the pleasures we have had this year is seeing the different succulents bloom after the hardships they went through last year.  While I was disappointed the curly locks did not sell, I was rewarded by the blooms that would have occurred at someone else’s house if it had.  The pandemic has produced major hardships and disappointment for a vast number of people.  It also forced many to step back and re-evaluate their priorities.  Even disappointment can lead to other joys.  It is about attitude and being willing to look.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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