November 26, 2022
Melissa was prepping her succulents prior to our trip and came across a little oblong stub that had decided to bloom. This was not too surprising as her succulents are transitioning from summer bloomers to winter bloomers. During their dormant period of the year, the plants need very little care, with the minimum requirement being no water (I have mentioned this). As they become active, their water needs are still sparse, but Melissa does like to spritz the soil and check the leaves and stems for rot or damage. Several of the winter growers have become active this year. They were planted two years ago, did little last year, but have now acclimated to the soil in their pots and the conditions of our greenhouse porch. Melissa was pleasantly surprised by the number of flowers which bloomed this year. One of these was the small red blossoms on the Ritchiei on Tuesday.
When I looked online, I found the Euphorbia Ritchiei, also known as Monadenium Ritchiei, is a succulent member of the Euphorbiaceae Family. The species is native to Kenya and thrives around Meru, in the country’s Eastern region. Ritchiei grows mainly on the rocky slopes of Mount Kenya at an elevation of 4250 feet (1300 m). This dwarf clumping perennial blooms all year round and has a long life, “when the conditions are right”. The species has a thick fleshy rootstock that forms a large clump over time. The roots form thick tubers, which help the plant store food. Ritchiei has a thick green, erect stem. The stems are horizontal with small spines which can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall and 1.2 inches (3cm) in diameter. These spines are a typical trait of all the Euphorbia genus.
I am always reluctant to leave Melissa’s succulents when we go on trips. Even though we have replaced the greenhouse plastic, Melissa is constantly monitoring the temperature to keep the room hovering between 30F to 50F (-1C to 10C). If it gets much cooler, the plants are in danger of going into shock. If it gets much warmer, the plants can drop out of growth and revert to their dormant stage. This is especially true if either condition exists for several days in a row. We have lost dozens, if not hundreds, of small cuttings and shoots over the last two years. That is one of the struggles with being a succulent grower. I am glad melissa is monitoring the succulents as I think it would drive me crazy. I have worried about the Ritchiei since we have been away.
THOUGHTS: Succulents are amazingly resilient and yet extremely fragile. Most come from tropical or semi-tropical environments, and our Ritchiei is a good example. Kenya is situated at 1 degree longitude (equatorial). These plants have been transported and are now being propagated in cooler climes. They often only survive indoors, or if they are transported back and forth from inside to out and then back. Humans spend tremendous time, energy, and money creating conditions that allow many plant species to survive. We need to do the same to create the conditions necessary for other humans to do the same. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.