Cactus Collection, Zurich

 

The Sukkulenten-Sammlung (Cactus Collection) Zurich is one of the world's largest and most significant collections of succulent plants. It was opened in September 1931, after Jules Brann, a department store owner, donated cacti gardener Jakob Gasser's well-known collection to the City of Zurich.

Succulent plants come from dry areas and are able to store water. Cacti are succulent plants but not all succulent plants are cacti. There are over 50 plant families and the collection includes about 9,000 varieties of succulent plants. The collection covers a total area of 4750 m2, with 6 public show buildings, 700 m2 of greenhouses for acclimatization, breeding, wintering and protection and 550 m2 of bedding frames which can be heated. 
There are also outdoor areas with winter-hardy succulent plants. However these are not accessible during the winter months.

There are similar cactus gardens found throughout the world – the Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden in Nevada, Mango Corners in the West Indies, the Adam Mickiewicz University Botanical Garden in Poland, and Cactualdea in Spain are just a few.

Cacti and succulents, because they can be so varied – in size, shape, colour, prickliness and appearance – appeal to many people. There are a lot of private collectors of such plants around the world – one man from Norfolk (UK), for example, has been collecting cacti for over 40 years and owns over 50,000 plants.


Most countries have their own cacti and succulent society, too, where collectors can meet and discuss their plants, exchange seeds, and give tips on raising them. These societies host annual exhibitions where members can come and display their most prized plants – you’ll find a lot of these in hotter climes such as California (USA), Malta and Cyprus.

Cacti are almost exclusively native to the Americas. Most live in extremely dry environments, and so they have evolved many different adaptations to store water. The spines, which are actually vestigial and highly modified leaves, discourage herbivores and trap a layer of moisture close to the plant by reducing air flow. Photosynthesis takes place through enlarged stems, which store water – they are often ribbed or fluted so that they can expand and contract easily. Their shallow root system is extensive, allowing them to react quickly to rainfall and maximize water storage.

Interesting fact: at the time of writing, the tallest recorded free-standing cactus is a Pachycereus pringlei, measured at 19.2 m (63 ft). The tallest homegrown cactus is a Cereus peruvians, measured at 24 m (78.8 ft).
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