The York Street gardens will close at 3 p.m. on Aug. 25 for a concert.

November 20, 2009 | Ellen Hertzman, Former Manager of Volunteer Experience

Succulent Jungle

If you are as much a sun-lover as I am, you’ll find a winter home in the succulent jungle leading up the stairs to the Green Roof, as well as on the south-facing Green Roof deck itself.

A Dr. Seuss World: An astonishing array of shapes, colors, and forms awaits you on this hidden stairway. For example, Encephalartos horridus is a cycad (palm tree relative) featuring twisted, pointy, blue/green fronds sprouting from a bowling-ball shaped trunk. The name—so evocative!—Encephalartos

comes from the Greek: “encephalartos” literally means “bread in the head,” and lets you know that a starchy, bready food can be gathered from inside the round trunk. And of course “horridus” refers to its ferocious looking fronds. A Southern African native, this indoor plant loves dry heat and requires very little water.

Pachypodium Bloom

Rare Bloom: Another African native, Pachypodium saundersii is a prickly plant currently sporting lovely white blooms. “Pachy” means “thick” in Greek, and “podium” means “foot”, so look for the plant with a thick trunk. Pachypodium is well adapted to its dry native habitat. The thickened trunk allows it to store water for times of drought, and the spines enable it to wick moisture from fog or dew, and direct it towards the base of the plant. The plant goes through cycles of shedding and regenerating its leaves, and produces blooms fairly infrequently.

• Leaves, Stems, and Spines: The more I understand succulents, the more appreciation I have for the ways they have adapted to harsh, dry, and windy environments, and the beautiful forms these adaptations give them. Other plants to admire on the Green Roof stairs include a giant Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), several members of the Agave family, a spiny Barrel Cactus, and several Aeoniums, with their rosettes of waxy, thick leaves in green or deep red.


Up on the Roof: If you haven’t been up to the Green Roof lately, I recommend bringing your lunch up to a sunny bench overlooking the Gardens. The roof garden plants have been filling in, and provide many pleasing colors and textures.


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