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  • Writer's picturerichelletanner

A curious collection indeed

Leaning precariously over a sandy cliff, I snap a photo of my favorite plant for the Catalina Island Native Plant Field Guide. Dudleya hassei, or the Catalina Island Live Forever, is a type of succulent that thrives in drought-prone environments. Aside from having beautiful frosted leaves that transition from pale blue/green to red and brilliant yellow flowers towering over the plant's modest stature, Dudleya are unique in that they actually "live forever".

Living forever is sort of a technicality, because a single plant cannot actually live indefinitely. However, since succulents can clone themselves using their leaf and root parts, the same plant can technically live "forever". This results in large, clonal communities on cliff sides where other plants don't dare colonize. It also means that they tend to grow very slowly, due to the lack of water and nutrients in their harsh habitat. Interestingly, most succulents do most of their growing in the wintertime, when water is most abundant. This is opposite of most leafy plants and trees that wait for the warmer spring and summer to grow.

My obsession with Dudleya has grown from my first introduction of them on Catalina Island, and I continue to collect species from all over California. It is amazing to see their color variations and growing styles as they coexist on my apartment balcony. And who knows - with the way the drought is progressing in SoCal, I may be personally repopulating the Channel Islands with my rare specimens in the not-so-near future.

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