Updated/Fact-Chacked on February 25, 2022 by John
Succulents are fantastic to grow indoors, with hundreds of varieties to choose from, but make sure you are not buying a protected wild succulent variety.
There has been a growing number of succulent collectors worldwide, which has put some varieties in danger as they have been picked from the wild and sold to collectors.
In this article I wanted to highlight some of the rarest succulents in the world – ones NOT to pick for fear of extinction, though some of these can be bought and grown from seed.
These rare succulents are all endangered and have very small populations in the wild, most tending to be found on small islands with unique habitats.
5 Rarest Succulents (which should not be picked)
Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans is known to be native in Brazil but thought to be extinct in the wild. Under Jair Bolsonaro presidency, Brazil’s deforestation has accelerated at the fastest rate in history. This right-wing lunatic has probably made more animal and plants species extinct than any person since humanity began.
Though Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans is thought to be extinct in the wild, they are found in private collections. Some Discocactus subterraneo-proliferans have actually been grown from seeds by collectors.
Aeonium Gorgoneum Succulent
This succulent is native to Cape Verde and is known as ‘Salao’ by the island locals. There is said to be around 250-990 mature plants left growing in the wild, mainly Santo Antão and Santa Luzia, with a small scattering on Mindelo Island. Though Aeonium gorgoneum are endangered, they are said to be stable – probably helped by the lack of tourists to the islands since the pandemic.
Aichryson Dumosum Succulent
This endangered succulent, part of the Crassulaceae family, is native to Madeira island off Portugal. This shrub-like succulent produces wonderful yellow flowers in the summer months, but sadly there are only around 50-250 mature Aichryson dumosum remaining in their 100 sq metre habitat. The data on the IUCN red list has not even been updated since 2011.
Pelotilla de Chinamada Succulent
Pelotilla de Chinamada is native to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, it doesn’t even grow on the other islands. This succulent grows in a small 1 km square mile area of Chinamada in the mountainous region of northern Tenerife. Luckily, a lot of this area is inaccessible due to sheer rock faces, but there are a lot of walking trails and roads that have impacted the plants decline.
Sand Dollar Cactus (A. asterias)
This plant is native to Texas and Mexico, where only 2000 individual plants can be found in the wild.
This alien-like cactus is strange looking, with its divided segments and amazing yellow flowers – this is why they have been picked from the wild and used as house plants. The plant is often mistaken for the hallucinogenic peyote plant, which has not helped its conservation. This plant is on USA endangered list which prohibits and trade of wild-collected specimens, though I’m not sure how you would tell if one is wild or nursery grown.
Fortunately, Sand Dollar Cactus can be easily grown from seed and found in many nurseries worldwide. You can easily find ‘asterias seeds’ for sale on Etsy.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.