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Mutant Pride

April 19, 2012


We were in Long Beach this weekend and I got to visit one of my favorite plants at our friends Elena and Steve’s home. I’ve professed my affection for the echium known as Pride of Madeira before and their specimen is no less lovable … it’s got the gorgeous foliage and striking blue floral spears I adore. But, their PoM has something extra: Rising out of the expansive shrub’s center is a large, flat crest, topped with leafy pom-poms. When I first saw it a while back I couldn’t believe it; I’d never seen a crested PoM before … I half thought seeing it again it wouldn’t be as dramatically weird as I remembered. But, in Sunday’s morning light I was just as awestruck …


Everything about this PoM crest is bizarre: From an improbably thin stalk over 5-feet tall, it widens into a flat, hand-like paddle … its texture is firm to the touch, with hard little nubs dotting its surface … tightly-furred clumps of spiky-fuzzy PoM leaves top each thick finger — In all, the picture of mutant loveliness …


Searches online for more information about crested PoMs were futile, so I emailed local succulent expert, Buck Hemenway, asking what he knew about them. Declaring that almost any plant can crest, he said most horticulturalists and botanists see cresting as an sign of disease, and offensive … therefore, undesirable and removed. He cited an acquaintance who was convinced that her peach trees had crested due to an unseemly association with a cactus or succulent on their property … Hemenway, however, feels differently, and like most succulent aficionados (me, included) enjoys a good crest; he proclaimed Elena and Steve’s PoM a “fantastic specimen!”  I couldn’t agree more …

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Elena Howe permalink
    April 19, 2012 5:50 am

    So proud of my little mutant!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 19, 2012 5:55 am

      Me too — Thanks for allowing me to share your amazing PoM!

  2. April 19, 2012 6:00 am

    WOW! cool!!!

  3. April 19, 2012 1:38 pm

    So beautiful. Bill and I were trying to grow one up on the hill, but it died. I’m not giving up, I’ll try again, and again, until I get it right.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 19, 2012 1:49 pm

      Well, it took a few tries to get mine where it is, too … First, one died, and then our current successful PoM got too big and broke in a windstorm: sad! Keep trying: a PoM would look fantastic on your slope…

  4. daveinToronto permalink
    April 19, 2012 2:17 pm

    We were just at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix a few weeks ago, and I thought I had my fill of weird plants. But this one just might take the cake! Thanks for the post.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 19, 2012 2:30 pm

      I heard from Alison Dingledein at work that you’d been down … I have to go onto FB to check the photos …. I love that this bizarro PoM is somewhere I can track easily as I can’t wait to know what it does next!

  5. April 19, 2012 4:26 pm

    Wow! That’s insane!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 19, 2012 4:33 pm

      Insanely beautiful …

  6. Vickie Perez permalink
    April 20, 2012 4:02 am

    So very lovely. Such a result of a so called disease. As you said, insanely beautiful…

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 20, 2012 4:32 am

      Hi, Vickie, Elena was saying at work today that this PoM is only two years-old, too! … it’s enormous and obviously loves its site in Long Beach. I’m so jealous …

  7. April 23, 2012 6:21 pm

    Sweet, I’ve never seen a crested Echium before! My crackpot theory with all our succulent crests is that it’s pest related. Aphids on the Euphorbias and cabbage loopers in the succulents. They mess up the central growing point and weird things happen.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 23, 2012 6:23 pm

      Well, crest theories do abound. I actually take comfort in knowing that there are succulent phenomenae still unexplained … actually, make that comfort and delight!

      • AlgaRythums permalink
        April 30, 2012 8:25 pm

        knowing that there are succulent phenomenae still unexplained …
        hehehe… too clever!

      • reubix1 permalink*
        May 1, 2012 1:12 am

        … and I wasn’t even trying that time! Thanks, nice to read you again…

  8. April 25, 2012 10:28 pm

    Oh that’s so cool! Thanks for posting that. I didn’t know Echiums did that.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2012 10:49 pm

      Right; It was news to me too … and just like that one of my fave plants went double-platinum!

  9. jamileena permalink
    April 27, 2012 7:45 pm

    There are quite a few of these plants around Ventura, at the pier and other places I go. Ill be looking for mutant plants out here now!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 27, 2012 7:57 pm

      Cool, if you come across one send me a pic and I’ll put it up, here … Mutants must be seen!

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