Wonderful succulents grow in many regions around the world. They are able to conquer even the driest areas by building up water supplies, because this is the only way they can survive and grow in the arid areas of their homeland – where the amount of precipitation is below the rate of evaporation. So let’s take a closer look at the habitat of succulents.
Where do Succulents Grow?
The most famous of the habitats of succulents. In arid locations, succulents are the undisputed rulers. They survive the extreme temperature fluctuations of day and night and long periods of severe drought. But only a few succulent species can survive for years without water and in the real arid deserts with less than 25cm of rainfall per year.
Most succulents colonize semi-deserts, where the periods of drought are interrupted by occasional rainfall. These rare rains are often followed by explosive growth, the succulents bloom and set seeds. After that, they almost stop their development because they can temporarily stop their growth. With your own small succulent collection, this pattern can be traced by adjusting or suspending the watering to the rest and vegetation times.
The soils in the semi-deserts are poor, have hardly any vegetation and are rocky rather than sandy. The amount of rainfall is sometimes increased by dew, which literally saves the life of some succulents. Succulents can colonize ecological niches or form colonies there. On plateaus and dry plateaus, succulents such as Haworthia thrive in the shade of bushes and grasses and can even survive bush fires.
In the mountains, as well as on mountain slopes, scree fields and plateaus, there is often hardly any soil, even if only thin. This has a very low water storage capacity, but has a high mineral content that cannot harm succulent plants. Nevertheless, the mountains are also one of the habitats of succulents.
In mountain deserts, such as the Andes (along the west coast of South America), the site conditions are strongly influenced by the altitude. The succulents are exposed to temperatures of up to -20°C, storms and snow, as well as intense sunlight. Only small spherical or creeping succulents survive such extremes. However, larger succulents such as columnar cacti can also grow at lower altitudes.
Succulents have developed a waxy skin there to protect themselves from the cold and too intense sunlight. Low succulents also grow in rocky locations in temperate latitudes. Many houseleek species (Sempervivum) colonize the alpine regions of Europe. Sedum species are common all over the northern hemisphere.
Succulent plants need to save water and often make do with only the night fog or morning dew. This can be seen particularly well on the west coast of South America, where the cold Humboldt Current flows north from Antarctica and meets the dry coast. This creates a damp mist, which condenses in the morning and supplies the plants with water. During the day the sun burns again. The succulents, especially the many species of cacti, only thrive here because of the daily moisture from the fog. Something similar can be seen on the coasts of Mexico, North America and southern Africa.
Most succulents inhabit arid areas, but many species are also native to tropical and subtropical rainforests such as Central and South America, Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Here the climate is constantly hot and humid. Sunlight is filtered through the canopy of tall trees. Succulents are abundantly supplied with moisture from the air and regular rainfall. So they have adapted to the low light rather than the lack of water elsewhere, just as they can survive dry periods.
Accordingly, these succulents like to be kept moist and slightly shaded. Some succulents like Hoya in Northern Australia and some jungle cacti like Epiphyllum are epiphytes. That is, they take root on the stems of other plants. Often they live on the upper parts of the treetops because it is brighter there. Other plants climb and look for light over or through other plants. Some succulents live in the semi-darkness of the forest floor, while others, such as the cactus Gymnocalycium, grow in the penumbra of the rain forest edge.