Meeting Location: Desert Botanical Garden – Dorrance Hall

Meeting Time: 2:00 p.m

Presenter: Steven Brack

I was interested in horticulture from a very young age. Growing up on a small family dairy farm in Wisconsin I started working in the garden as a lad. This interest in plants caused me to go to the local college library after seeing some cacti at a friend’s house. For quite some time my interest was in finding more books on cacti and succulents through library loan. In one of the books, I found that it was possible to join Societies and send away for seeds. Early on I got the raising from seed bug, and eventually decided to move to a desert state, New Mexico, to start a nursery to produce seeds. Once the ball got rolling it just kept on going, my wife and I started Mesa Garden in 1976 and pretty much the rest is history. One of the best parts of the work was taking trips to see plants in nature, and we continue to do this now. In late 2016 we sold Mesa Garden to retire, and now are as busy as ever with plants, growing from seed, and family.

Presentation: Out of the Fire and into the Pan

Southern Africa has a huge amount of exposed rock slabs, in these areas are billions of depressions that fill in with grit, sand, dust, and other soil types. Many other things also grow in these pans like mosses, other succulents, and other plants. A whole ecosystem develops in these pans and in part each pan becomes its own little world. Often these pans are small, from a few centimeters to a few meters.
The surrounding high rocks are very barren compared to the depressed pans, so the high rocks are too hot to support the complexity found in the cooler pans.  In the western regions of South Africa and Namibia there is a winter rainfall climate with some rain, drizzle, fog, snow and frost at night. Many winter nights in this region have some of the mentioned sources of water, and all forms of it trickle down into the pans keeping them cool and moist compared to the heat and dryness of the higher up rocks.
Some pans fill in with grit that erodes off the higher rocks and then you have a great spot for slow growing succulents to take hold and grow from seed. The grit provides stability for the tiny seedlings to survive. In the summer, the small succulents and other bulbs, etc., pull down to hide from the sun. You will see in this program many kinds of small succulents growing in these pans and get an idea of how they survive in nature.

From top to bottom:

  • Othonna cacalioides in a shallow grit pan
  • Conophytum minusculum and Crassula fragaroides in a pan
  • Conophytum obcordellum in moss on a shallow grit pan
  • Gifberg summit shrowded in fog