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MONTHLY MEETING: Fat Plants: Caudiciforms and Other Succulents

On August 12 we will hear from Al Klein, owner of Botanic Wonders Nursery, in Vista. Botanic Wonders specializes in growing and selling rare and exotic plants, including cycads and rare succulents. On August 12, Al will tell us all about some of his favorite rare succulents, those known as caudiciforms, or “Fat Plants.”

Caudiciforms are a grouping of many totally unrelated plants, all of which have a fat stem, trunk or succulent roots. Their swollen base or root is used for water storage and from it a thin vine or stem grows. A perfect example of this is Dioscorea elephantipes (photo below). However, caudiciform is a very broad term that can also include pachycaul trees, such as Ficus palmeri, some Euphorbia and even non-succulents like Cycads. These plants are among the most unusual on the planet, having found a way to adapt to some of the world's most inhospitable environments. Partly because of these adaptations, they can be a challenge to grow; duplicating their preferred environment in containers is not easy. However, for Al, this is actually their attraction.

<Rachel: name in italics> Dioscorea elephantipes

Al's interest in the natural world started in his childhood. Growing up in Chicago, he would make regular visits to Field Museum of Natural History, and read books on the natural sciences. His favorite hobbies were growing exotic plants like cacti and collecting fossils, minerals, and insects. When he moved to California at the age of 17, he was amazed at the diversity and beauty of the flora of California, and he found his passion in plants. Al worked at South Shores Nursery in San Clemente California while attending California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where he received his Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture with an emphasis in landscape design and retail nursery management.

After graduation Al was hired by Rogers Gardens in Corona Del Mar, California. Within a year, he was promoted to Nursery Manager. Soon Al he was asked to help open a nursery-gift shop in Escondido California, called Canterbury Gardens and Gifts. After almost 35 years as a partner at Canterbury Gardens, he retired. He is now running Botanic Wonders full time, fulfilling his true passion.

Join us on August 12 for what is sure to be a fun evening learning about these rare and wonderful plants. The evening starts at 6:00 PM at Congregation Beth Israel. Admission is free for SDHS members and $15 for non-members. Parking is free. For more information, call (619) 296-9215 or visit

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