Succulents are not “succulent” in the sense of “delicious.” Ill.:, montage:

Beginning gardeners are often confused about succulent plants, often just called succulents. “They must taste scrumptious!” some probably think, because the word succulent is most often used to refer to juicy, tasty, tender food.

But not in this case.

The world “succulent” has another meaning and that’s the one used in botanical circles. It refers to a plant with thick, fleshly leaves or stems used for storing water, a group that includes cactus, crassulas, sedums and many euphorbias.

20190125B Raul654, Wikimedia Commons.jpg
Succulent leaves and stems are often filled with thick sap. Photo: Raul654, Wikimedia Commons.

The word derives from the Latin “succus” (juice or sap) and refers to the fact that the thick leaves and stems of succulent plants contain copious stores of often thick, gooey sap. Succulent plants are from arid climates and have learned to store water in their stems or leaves.

So, don’t eat your succulents, unless you’re sure they are edible (and indeed, a very few are, like “nopales,” which are opuntia pads). Most though have a bitter taste that makes them unpalatable and some are even poisonous.

In general, therefore, it’s better to admire succulents than to eat them!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

0 comments on “Succulent Plants: Not So Yummy!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!