Plant and Garden

I SAY e-ch-a You SAY e-k-a… Correct Succulent Punctuation?

You pronounce the succulent Echeveria eh·kuh·veh·ree·uh I say ech-a-ver-ia. This is a hot topic of discussion at the nursery so we thought we would do research and it turns out, this is a bigger debate than I thought.

Most interestingly, Latin does not have that soft “ch” sound that we have in English, like in “cherry”.

When a “ch” shows up in Latin, it’s ordinarily because they used a Greek word with the letter “chi”, which is pronounced kai. And I am told that in Latin, “ch” is pronounced hard like our English “k”.

So that’s a point for the “ekeveria” pronunciation. What about “etcheveria”?

Did you know that the genus Echeveria is named after the 18th-century Mexican botanical artist Atanasio Echeverría y Godoy. 

The name, Echeverría, is still around today in several forms. It’s a pretty common plant actually.

In fact, they definitely pronounce it with that soft “ch” (or “sh”) in Spanish. The real problem here is that Latin nomenclature isn’t strict enough.

Modern Latin nomenclature is a mixture of Latin, Greek, and neo-Latin words. Neo-Latin is modern words made into Latin. In other words, the pronunciation differs depending on who’s saying it. 

Especially when I am speaking as I had a slight speech impediment when I was a young child.

This is why I am so happy to have learned that it is not just me saying the names of these plants this way or that, Furthermore, the way I say it is recognized as being correct.

But I also learned that some punctuations even though correct should be mispronounced.

For example, the genus for pine trees, Pinus, is always pronounced “pai-nus” even though, strictly speaking. it should be pronounced like “penis”.

Making it the penis genus.

So what, I said penis? Stop giggling.

There is no certain answer, unfortunately. Kalanchoe is worse of then all with its five pronunciations, all of which are correct. I say kal-an-cho-ee but there are also…

  • KA-luhn-KO-e
  • kuh-LANG-ko-e
  • KAL-uhn-cho
  • kuh-LAN-cho

All of this confusion is normal conversation at the Crazy Plants Nursery with me often saying that I am most likely saying the word incorrectly.

I thought I would create the following list to help me not only pronounce the plant correctly but also identify them better.

Aeonium ē-ˈō-nē-əm

One thing that sets Aeonium apart from other rosette style succulents is the way their leaves attach to the stem. They are wrapped around the stem with a fibrous attachment so that when a leaf is pulled away, the stem is intact with only a transverse line showing where the leaf was attached. 

The most obvious difference between Aeonium and others in the Crassulaceae family is spotted by looking at the rosette.

Rosette succulents include Echeveria, Sempervivum, and Aeonium. Among the three, Aeonium has flattest leaves.

They also have spoon-shaped leaves but not as rounded as Echeveria. For most Aeonium genus, their leaf margin has a range of tiny teeth that is hardly visible.

Agave uh·gaa·vei

Agave form rosettes or circular arrangement of leaves emerging from its stem, there to protect the plant.

Rosettes on succulents such as agaves result from short internodes, the part of the stem between two leaf nodes.

Look for thick, stiff symmetrical leaves ranging in color from blue-gray to gray or blue to dark-blue with spiny margins that taper to a sharp point.

Aloe ˈa-lō

Aloes range in size from potted plants to trees. The leaves can be rosettes of fleshy succulent leaves. There are variations:

A. plicatilis, is distichous, while the unusual A. polyphylla from Lesotho grows in spirals.

The plant can grow close to the ground or on branched and un-branched stems.

Cotyledon kä-tə-ˈlē-den

Cotyledon’s name comes from the first two leaves that a dicotyledonous plant seed has after germination.

That appears as opposite large fleshy rounded leaves. Cotyledons continue on this way, each new set is oriented at 90 degrees to the previous pair.

Some types of cotyledon have a smooth edge, others often grow 3-4 teeth on the edges of their leaves. 

Flowers are tubular and colorful mostly red, to orange and yellow. on short to medium stems 3 to 6 inches long.

Crassula ˈkras(y)ələ

Crassula has a variety of growth habits which include shrub, branching, and stacked varieties with leaves pancaked along thin stems. 

The most common form is the stack formation. The main stem grows upright and has a tree-like shape. The stacked Crassula has leaves emerging symmetrically in pairs layering on top of each other surrounding a long central stem. The stacked Crassula often produces fleshy and triangle-shaped leaves. 

Of course, there are some exceptions when these Crassula have finger-like or spoon-like leaves. The most famous Crassula is probably the Jade plant.

Dasylirion dasəˈlirēən

Dasylirion leaves are green-gray, narrow, and grow in rosettes structure.

They are sharp in the spear shape with a spiny margin and break a little bit in the edge to fibers that look like hairs.

The flower is green-yellowish, grows in a spike on stems, and create a shape like ice-pop.

Dracaena drə-ˈsē-nə

Older dracaenas develop woody stems and can become tree like.

In fact, after years and years, many healthy dracaenas can reach 5 or 6 feet tall.

Some are tree-sized with stout trunks and stiff, broad-based leaves. The remaining species are known collectively as shrubby dracaenas.

They are smaller and shrub-like, with slender stems and flexible strap-shaped leaves, and grow as understorey plants in tropical forests.

Echeveria eh·kuh·veh·ree·uh

Echeveria can often be recognized by its gorgeous rosette-shaped with striking plump, spoon-like leaves. They usually have a pointy tip but the edges of the leaf are smooth.

Echeveria is a polycarpic plant, meaning they bloom every year.

In the spring or early summer, growers can spot their flowers stemming from chubby-leaved rosettes.

These stems are long, slim and are topped by bell-shaped blooms. 

Euphorbia yü-ˈfȯr-bē-ə

Euphorbias range from tiny annual plants to large and long-lived trees.

The plants share the feature of having a poisonous, milky, white, latex-like sap, and unusual and unique floral structures.

The plants share the feature of having a poisonous, milky, white, latex-like sap, and unusual and unique floral structures.

The genus may be described by properties of its members’ gene sequences, or by the shape and form (morphology) of its heads of flowers.

When viewed as a whole, the head of flowers looks like a single flower (a pseudanthium).

Furcraea fer-KREE-uh

Furcraea looks very much like Aloe. In fact, they are closely related to classification. However, Furcraea has fuzzy buds.

Though not all Furcraeas have this trait, it is never seen in an Agave.

The drooping floral branches and pendent flowers are also Furcraea traits, as are the white or greenish-white flowers, but this coloration is very rare in Agave.

Gasteria gaˈstirēə

Gasteria is a small succulent that has thick and fleshy, long but round-edged leaves. Moreover, they are heavily speckled with white stripes and the edge is spikeless.

Graptopetalum grap-to-something….

Graptopetalum rosettes grow at the tips of ever-lengthening stems, creating a low cascading grouping about 12 inches tall.  

The flowers are star-shaped, large, white-and-red or yellow and one-quarter of an inch in diameter. 

The offsets are located on stolons or attached to the main stem. 

Haworthia hȯˈ(w)ərthēə

The most common type of Haworthia has round spoon-like leaves that are densely stacked together.

The leaves often have paler green color covered with darker vertical stripes.

A small number of Haworthia have thick, dark green pointy leaves covered with bumpy, white bands.

Hoya ˈhȯi-ə 

Hoya flowers grow in a ball-shaped cluster which may contain up to 40 individual flowers, packed tightly together.

Flowers often sport a colored eye in the center of the corona.

The plants produce woody stems with waxy leaves, which remain evergreen.

Jovibarba joe-vi-bar-ba’ 

Jovibarba is a member of a group of plants and produces compact rosettes of fleshy leaves that form what is called hens and chicks. For all its similarities in appearance to Echeveria and Sempervivum, the plant is a separate species. 

However, it is in the same family, sharing identical site preferences and an almost indistinguishable appearance.

The differences between these two plants go farther than simple scientific and DNA classification. Most of Jovibarba are alpine species. 

Only three species are accepted as distinct by the Flora Europaea:

  • Jovibarba globifera (syn. J. sobolifera; Sempervivum globiferum) 
  • Jovibarba heuffelii (syn. J. velenovskyi; Sempervivum heuffelii) 
  • Jovibarba hirta (syn. Sempervivum hirtum)

Jovibarba species hold their chicks over top of the adult plant on delicate brittle stems which break easily. This makes it possible for the chick, or ‘propagule’, to roll away to find a place to root, giving rise to their other name of ‘rollers’.

Kalanchoe ka-luhn-ko-e

Kalanchoe varieties feature flowers with four petals and a yellow center. Double-petaled varieties have more heavily ruffled flowers while a new variety known as Calandivias, has 32-petaled flowers.

Kalanchoes come in shades of cream, pink, orange, yellow or red. If the flower has blue or purple blooms, it is likely not a kalanchoe.

Manfreda is a member of a group of approximately 28 species and is also in the asparagus family.

Some refer to these plants as false agave due to their rosette form.

The thick succulent leaves have a gentle serration along the edge which does resemble agave plants.

The leaves sprout from a short, bulbous stem and may be adorned with attractive mottling in various colors.

The flowers appear on tall stalks and are usually tubular in hues of white, green, yellow and bronzy-brown. The stamens are erect and showy.

Lithops ˈliˌthäps

Lithops are found in the genus  Aizoaceae. There are many species and subspecies of Lithops, and they are mainly differentiated according to the surface pattern or the color of their flowers.

The double leaves shape as individual plants. They are bulbous and mostly curved on the top.

These leaves are close to the soil surface and do not have any stem.

New tissue growth happens from the slit between those leaves.

Peperomia pe-pə-ˈrō-mē-ə

There are many varieties of Peperomia. There are over 1,500 species alone, with new hybrids and cultivars being bred constantly. One aspect that makes Peperomias easy to identify is the iconic, rat tail-like inflorescences.

Grown for their foliage, peperomias are quite varied in their appearance. In general, they feature thick, fleshy leaves that store water. These leaves come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some species having leaves smaller than a dime and others as large as a baseball.

The leaves of peperomia are often a deep emerald green, but many species feature intricate markings and patterns in silver.

Ripple peperomias, one of the more popular species, have puckered and ruffled foliage.

There are plenty of variegated varieties to choose from as well, with creams and whites making an appearance in their leaves.

And while they are unique, the flowers of peperomias are far from showy.

The blooms are long, narrow stalks often in a green or brown color that don’t resemble flowers at all.

Portulacaria por·​tu·​la·​car·​ia

Portulacaria is a small-leaved succulent that commonly has a reddish stem but can be green.

The leaves are green, but there are also variegated cultivars.

Some varieties grow on thick branches while others are a succulent ground-cover with “creeping” nature. 

Rhipsalis ripˈsālə̇s

Rhipsalis are primarily epiphytic but some are lithophytic that have cylindrical-pendant stems that branch frequently. Then again, some are flattened or have angled stems.

Spines are absent in most or if present, very fine and hair-like. Flowers are among the smallest of cactus flowers if not the smallest and predominantly white with some having a yellow or red tinge.

Fruits wich are mostly found with pea-sized berries appear on all and are spineless except R. pilocarpa.

Sansevieria san(t)-sə-ˈvir-ē-ə

Sansevierias have strong, stiff, almost plastic-like, succulent leaves that erupt right out the ground from the roots or rhizomes. 

There are no stems or trunks. Flowers are whitish to pale yellow-green and some are nicely scented. 

Many species, if not most, are naturally variegated being banded, striped or mottled to varying degrees. 

Some have thin, flat, upright leaves while others have nearly cylindrical, arching or straight, spear-like leaves that end in a sharp point.

The leaves vary in size from less than 6” tall to over 8’ in height.

Sedum ˈsē-dəm

There are 400 species of sedum in the Northern Hemisphere, 

Sometimes Sedum is mistaken for Crassula since their baby form share many similarities. As they mature, their differences start to become more visible.

Sedums are varied in color and appearance, with the most variety occurring among the stonecrops.

The most recognizable feature of sedum is the rosette; the leaves have the thick and chubby appearance, stacked around a long stem-like a rose. The flowers can be pink, white or yellow.

Sempervivum  sem-pər-ˈvī-vəm

Sempervivum has some distinctive traits on the leaves that allow growers to identify its genus.

Unlike Echeveria, Sempervivum has narrower and pointy leaves.

The edges are covered with tiny sharp teeth easily seen with a magnifying glass.

Sometimes, these teeth can only be seen through a magnifying glass due to their small size.

Senecio si-ˈnē-sh(ē-ˌ)ō

There are some Senecio is quite often stringy plants with leaves densely growing on a very long and vine-like stem.

While other Senecio has a stick-like body with chubby, long leaves either growing vertically or pine-like. 

Yucca yuh·kuh

Yuccas have long sword-shaped leaves with pointed tips. The leaves are often about 1 to 3 feet in length. Yucca leaves are stiff and leathery, but pliable and a bit thinner than agave leaves. Numerous yucca leaves grow in a rosette formation from a thick base.

The leaves are edged with fine serration and end sharply at the tip of each leaf. This spine is generally smaller than similar spines on their agave counterparts. Sometimes the serrated edge becomes frayed into threads or filaments that hang from the edges of the leaves.

This base can grow into a trunk in some varieties. The formation of a truck is one characteristic that differentiates yucca from the similar and often confused species.

Agave, trunks can reach 10 feet or more in total height.

No Matter How You Pronounce Your Succulent…

Remember They Are Easier To Grow Than To Say!

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