Field Guide to Succulents – review

  • Title: Field Guide to Succulents in Southern Africa
  • Authors: Gideon F. Smith, Neil R. Crouch, Estrela Figueiredo
  • Publisher: Struik Nature
  • Year: May 2017
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • Recommended Selling Price: R350
  • ISBN 978 1775843672


Those of us who were born and raised in Southern Africa are often quite oblivious to the sheer diversity of our natural flora.  We are accustomed to it.  The reality is that Southern Africa is host to one of the richest and most diverse succulent flora in the world, from the gigantic baobabs through to the tiny pebble like desert succulents.

This Field Guide documents more than 700 southern African succulents in a way which is not too unfriendly to the non-botanists amongst us.    It contains all the major elements one expects from such a book written in the 21st century – from sumptuous photographs to illustrate the diagnostic features, distribution maps and information about the conservation status of each species.

Of immense importance to South Africans is the value of our indigenous succulents in water wise  and low maintenance gardens.  I was caught up in the perusal of this book, itching to grow a little succulent garden for myself so as to capture the sheer variety, quirkiness, beauty and artistry of some of these wonderful drought resistant plants.  The lack of practical information for gardeners (the early section of the book devotes two pages to the concept) is possibly the single biggest weakness of the book, but then it is a Field Guide, not a gardener’s manual.  No one book is meant to be all things to all people.

The book’s species information (almost) begins with the much loved “vygies” which brighten many a garden and (almost) ends with pages devoted to the Welwitsia of the Namib Desert.  In between that is a world of wonder.

All round this is a book which will thrill people with an interest in Southern African flora or botany generally.  I always feel a tinge of sadness, when I find a gem like this, that my father is no longer alive to enjoy the book.  It would have given him great pleasure to page through this book, nodding with recognition and puzzling over whether he had seen such a plant or not.



About moirads

Clergy person, theatre and music lover, avid reader, foodie. Basically, I write about what I do, where I go and things I love (or hate).
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