Succulents fascinate me, and over the years, my husband and I have collected a wide-variety of the unusual plants. Many thrive in terracotta pots on our front deck while others flourish in containers arranged on the flagstone patio out back. Almost every windowsill in our home is decorated with three succulents growing in tiny individual clay pots. We also have several succulent bowls filled with different species growing closely together to create unique botanical bouquets.
As I thought about scratchy, the SDAWP Photo Voices word-of-the-week, I found myself focusing on the spines, thorns, and needles in our collection and have learned some new things about succulents in the process.
I have always enjoyed the shapes, colors, and textures of succulents but have rarely considered their amazing adaptations. For example, some can live for years without water because their complex roots, thick skins, and waxy leaves enable them to retain much of what they collect. In spite of their drought tolerance, I do water our plants regularly and can attest from experience that succulents do not always thrive when not cared for appropriately. As explained on the website Southwest Succulents, many may survive in spite of’ extreme neglect, but the stress causes disease, makes them susceptible to pests, and can degrade “their perfect beauty.”
The ability of succulents to store water is not their only extraordinary adaptation. Some grow into strikingly sculptural shapes and many stay low to the ground as protection from the sun. Their wavy leaves and odd bumps aren’t just decorative; they assist with a modified form of photosynthesis, which allows them to conserve energy.
This week, I gained a deeper appreciation for succulents and their ability to live in harsh climates. As I have considered their adaptability, I have also reflected on the resilience of the at-risk children who attend the school where I work—a school where 85% of students qualify for the National School Lunch Program. What adaptations are necessary in order to live in the harsh environments in which many of them exist?
Some merely survive without the intellectual, physical or emotional nourishment needed to thrive. As a school, we do everything we can to ensure the success of our students. Our dedicated teachers work diligently to guide their learning and to support their social development.
Unfortunately, our assistance is not always enough to help our students overcome the emotional toll that poverty, violence, and broken homes inflict. As a society, how can we better support our children, all children—the children living in our communities across this country and around the world? What more can we do to ensure that all children are able to thrive and find their own unique and “perfect beauty?”