Plants are having a moment and we are totally on board. Besides coloring our world, cleaning our air, and giving us something to snack on, plants make our lives look way cooler. Here in Southern California, we have some seriously iconic vegetation - from colorful succulents to the effortlessly-chic palm tree (which is basically the French-girl of foliage). Resident green-thumb Angella D'Avignon gives us the 411 on some of our favorite desert plants while photographers Michael and Staci Giroux take us to one of the most wow-inducing places ever, the Huntington Gardens.
It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 succulent plant species throughout the world. In lower California they can be divided roughly into two categories, stem and leaf. Easy to grow and beloved by most, succulent nurseries have been scattered throughout California since the first half of the 20th century.
Agave is native to Mexico and the southern United States, and Agave Azul is used in the production of tequila. Known as the Century Plant, agave's nectar is also used as a sugar substitute. Agave Salmiana, otherwise known as the "Green Giant", can grow up to 26 feet tall. California has more agave than any other state in the country!
Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly pear cacti are found in all of the deserts of the American Southwest, and are edible! When you order that chilaquila with nopales it's more than likely you're eating the tasty pads of the prickly pear. They are also the official cactus of the state of Texas.
Golden Barrel Cactus
Bulbous and low to the ground, golden barrel cacti grow primarily in east central Mexico. They produce yellow flowers in summer and don't need a lot of water. They also go by the names "golden ball" or "mother-in-law's cushion"-- ouch!
Palm trees are the quintessential symbol of the golden west. Only one kind, Washingtonia filifera, (known as the California fan palm) is native to the beloved golden state. Franciscan missionaries were the first to plant palms ornamentally, then later a gardening craze among the leisure class turned Southern California into "America's Mediterranean, sunny and palm-guarded" and in 1931 LA's forestry division planted more than 25,000 palm trees.