Santa Barbara horticulturalist David Harris noticed an unusual succulent growing a few years ago in a client’s backyard in Ojai. Harris, a founding member of the Santa Barbara Cactus & Succulent Society, thought the plant was unlike any Echeveria gibbiflora he knew, most notably because it didn’t bolt into a flower like many do. Instead, the plant almost never flowered -- usually the final flush before death for a gibbiflora. It simply put out a stalk topped by a new rosette.
The succulent retained its good looks in the wintertime, another rare attribute. It was long-lived. And it was beautiful.
Excited by his discovery, Harris and his twin brother, Don, started propagating new plants from leaf cuttings and the flowering stem below the rosette. Before they could produce many starters, however, David was diagnosed with melanoma. He died last year.
Now Don Harris has enlisted the help of Randy Baldwin at San Marcos Growers to propagate the new plant, which has been named Echeveria gibbiflora 'David Harris,' the single quotation marks being the botanical world's way of signifying a cultivar name.
Baldwin checked with echeveria expert Dick Wright in Fallbrook. Wright hadn’t seen any plant like it, so the description and name were published on the San Marcos Growers website, officially establishing 'David Harris' as a new cultivar.
“It’s fitting because David was so adamant about this plant,” Baldwin said.
Plants can be patented, and claims for new species' nomenclature follow a complicated process that includes publication in a peer-reviewed journal. But for a cultivar -- a cultivated variety of a species -- one need only make efforts to confirm the cultivar isn't yet named, then publish a description with the name.
Echeveria gibbiflora 'David Harris' is still being cultivated for sale. It could be sold to the public as soon as November.
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