The Asclepiadaceae family: African succulents with beautiful but… smelly flowers

Although more than twenty years have passed, I still remember my first encounter with an Asclepiadaceae. A few years ago, I approached the world of succulents, and I went to visit a nursery just outside my city. I had been browsing among the succulents for quite a while when the owner of the nursery, an elderly but very chirpy lady, noticed me and my interests in plants, approached me and said: “Do you want to see a succulent plant with beautiful flowers?” I said yes, of course, I wanted to see it, so she took me down a narrow corridor cluttered with plants and pointed to a large succulent in a hanging pot. It had thick fleshy, straight green stems with reddish edges, and from one of these stems hung a big star-shaped flower with elongated, thin tips and shaded yellow petals crossed by tiny dark streaks. “Come closer, sniff how good it smells”, the lady said to me, passing from a restrained smile to an open, fat laugh, as soon as I obeyed and immediately withdrew, disgusted by the smell of rotting flesh that from that flower had entered right into my nose.

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How to cultivate Euphorbia: tips to best care for these succulents loved by all the cactophiles

The succulent species belonging to the Euphorbia family (Euphorbiaceae) are appreciated and cultivated by many cacti lovers. The variability in the forms and some cultivation affinities with cacti make these plants an excellent alternative to “vary” the collections of succulents. However, it is essential to know the primary main needs of Euphorbias to grow them successfully.

Euphorbiaceae is the fourth largest family of angiosperms, i.e. flowering plants. The Euphorbiaceae are divided into 5 subfamilies, 300 genera and 6.000 species, many of which are succulent. These plants have a very variable bearing: they can be in the form of small grasses, or in the form of real shrubs; they can be columnar or caespitose, very thorny or with a perfectly smooth stem. Also, they can hold leaves, but they can be devoid of them. Euphorbiaceae, unlike Cactaceae (exclusively originating from the Americas) come from almost every part of the world, except, of course, the Arctic and Antarctic areas. Some species come from Africa, others from the Americas or from Asia.

You can deepen the knowledge of Euphorbiaceae in the following article, with description, images, curiosities and cultivation techniques specific to this plant family.

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