Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World

Have you started your Christmas wish list yet? If you are a succulent lover with a curious mind this book needs to be on it. The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: A Comprehensive Reference to More than 2000 Species, by Fred Dortort, is unlike any other succulent book I own. It doesn’t suggest plant combinations or offer detailed cultural information on eventual size and hardiness zones; and in fact there are zero pictures of succulents actually growing in gardens! There are however hundreds of close-ups and jaw dropping images of these plants in their natural habitats. (Furcraea Macdougallii, photo by Fred Dortort)

Mr Dortort writes about the plants natural growing environment and thus helps you to appreciate why they look the way they do and to better understand their individual growing conditions, including growing season as well as the range of temperatures the plant is naturally adapted to. (Lithops Terricolor, photo by Rob Skillin)

The book begins with two chapters devoted to an overview of Succulents in Nature and Succulents in Cultivation. The remaining 28 chapters are focused on groups of plants like Crassula, Euphorbia, Succulent Milkweeds with Vining and Caudiciform Habits, and of course Agave. These chapters are organized “first by family and genus, then by habit, form, or other significant horticultural features.” It should be noted that the author restricts himself to writing only about the “other succulents” meaning only those that are not part of the Cactus family. I personally found this refreshing, not that I don’t love Cactus but it seems so often when you pick up a book on succulents 80% of it is about Cactus. (Aloe Pillansii, photo by Kurt Zadnik)

I have not yet read the book cover to cover. It is information dense and has caused me to reach for the computer time and time again to look up a new name to see an image. Even though there are hundreds of beautiful photographs not all plants mentioned are illustrated, after all that would have made this book too thick to lift (and expensive no doubt). (Cyphostemma Currori, photo by Rob Skillin)

I’ve found myself jumping from chapter to chapter, naturally starting with the Agave section where I was surprised to read that several species of Agaves have been cultivated for so many years, and are so widely dispersed, that their actual place of origin is not known. (Agave Stricta, photo by Fred Dortort)

In the Euphorbia chapter I learned there are at least two thousand species in the Euphorbiaceae family! 2,000! Of course most of them are non-succulent plants but as many as 500-600 species can be considered succulents. Next up, I read about the Aloes. I figure with 28 chapters to devour if I read 2 of them a week that means I’ve got 14 weeks /3.5 months of succulent happiness ahead of me. In other words when I finish the book I will also be finished with the worst of winter and spring will be just days away… (Aloe Dewinteri, photo by Rob Skillin)

--I did not purchase this book but was sent a copy by Timber Press for review. Had I not received the review copy this title would have definitely went on my wish list in hopes that some kind friend or relative would have purchased it for me!--


  1. What a great review. Like you, I'm really impressed with the depth of this book. The fact that it's much more of a botanical reference than a book for gardeners may not be appreciated by everybody, but I like having a veritable treasure trove of botanical information in one handy volume. While there are 755 photos already, I wish there were even more, at least one per species. Maybe in the next edition...

    :: Bamboo and More ::

  2. Thanks for the review, I was looking forward to seeing this book before buying. Now it will definitely be on my Christmas list!

  3. Yeah this is definitely going on my wish list. In fact I saw it in a store a few weeks ago and have been regretting ever since that I went home without it.

  4. So...I will ask the crass question: what does that book cost? Timber Press is smart to give you books, cuz you do manage to whip up interest.

  5. Definitely on my list now Loree, thanks for this! Great review, it's given us a helpful insight of what to expect inside. Looks like it's a handy reference guid an couple with stunning photography, can be a coffee table book too.

  6. Definitely a book to tide us over the winter and then become part of the reference library. Happy Thanksgiving, Loree.

  7. Oh my gosh, I'm drooling right now. I had no idea that the F. macdougallii got so big.

  8. This looks like a comprehensive book on the subject. Lucky you to get a review copy: it's almost $50 at Timber Press. They clearly feel it's worth their while since they got your clear and thoughtful take on the contents. I appreciated knowing more about what was inside.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Loree!

  9. So Christmas came early

  10. Gerhard, in the interest of not having my bookcase collapse under the weight of the book I think I'm glad there wasn't one photo per species! Oh...but what if there were a digital bonus that did have all those pictures....

    Barry, here's hoping someone buys it for you!

    Kaveh, maybe it was a blessing in disguise? This way maybe someone else will buy it for you...freeing up your cash for more plants!

    ricki, it's $49.95 on the Timber website but only $32.97 new/$29.86 used on Amazon...

    Mark and Gaz, oh I bet you guys will love it!

    Denise, Happy Thanksgiving to you too, I'm missing my AGO fix!

    PVH, I know!!! Can you even imagine 3 of these in your garden??

    MulchMaid, true...but only $30 on Amazon, Happy Thanksgiving to you Jane!

    Les, why yes it did! I'd offer to loan it to know if you lived on my side of the continent.

  11. How lucky you are to have gotten to review this great book! I'm definitely adding it to my list; since I'm the purchaser on Amazon, it will most likely be a treat for me from me. Thanks for the point about it not being consumed with cactus; that's the reason I put most every succulent book back.

  12. Based on your review, this book looks like a definite must read. The photos really are amazing... just like what we try to do in our gardens... imitate the pure art of nature itself.


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