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(sŭk`yələnt), any fleshy plant that belongs to one of many diverse families, among them species of cactus, aloe, stonecrop, houseleek, agave, and yucca. Most succulents are indigenous to arid or semiarid regions, and their succulence is simply an evolutionary adaptation to the extreme heat and dryness of the environment. Typically the plants have greatly reduced leaves with a hard and heavily cutinized outer surface which minimizes evaporation from the inner, juicy tissue that can retain and store water over long periods. Many are grown horticulturally for their interesting and often grotesque forms, e.g., the ice plant; a few have very attractive flowers.


See H. Jacobsen, A Handbook of Succulent Plants (3 vol., 1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a perennial plant with juicy, fleshy leaves (agave, aloe) or stems (cacti, certain spurges); a special type of xero-phyte. Succulents grow in the deserts of Central, North, and South America; some are also encountered in the deserts of southern Africa. The few succulents that occur in the USSR belong to the family Crassulaceae.

The distinctive physical appearance of succulents, which evolved in the process of historical development, is related to their ability to accumulate water in their leaves or stems and to expend the water sparingly during prolonged drought. The leaves and stems have highly developed water-bearing parenchyma. The stems of some species of cacti store 1,000 to 3,000 kg of water; the plants often serve as a source of water for humans and animals during drought. The ability of succulents to expend small amounts of moisture is made possible by the heavy cutinization of the epidermis, by the presence of hairs, by the low osmotic pressure of the cellular juice, and by the presence of only a small number of low-lying stomata.

Succulents are photophilic. Growing under conditions of intense heat, they have developed an increased resistance to high temperatures as a result of the great viscosity of the plasma and the high content of bound water. At the same time, however, the protoplasm is characterized by low elasticity, and, therefore, the plants cannot tolerate dehydration.

Succulents grow slowly as a result of their economical expenditure of water and the nature of their carbon metabolism. In darkness the leaves store substantial quantities of CO2, which results in formation of organic acids. During dry seasons the stomata are closed, and the CO2 serves as the source of carbon. Part of the CO2 is released upon decomposition of the organic acids under the action of light. The formation of endogenous water during respiration maintains hydration of the cell contents and, thus, is of great importance in the life of succulents.

Succulents are widely used as ornamentals (cacti, aloe) and textile plants (agave). Some, for example, opuntias, are used as animal feed. The leaf and stem structure of succulents is also characteristic of many solonchak plants, although the latter have no adaptations for lowering transpiration.


Warming, E. Raspredelenie rastenii v zavisimosti ot vneshnikh uslovii (ekologicheskaia geografiia rastenii). St. Petersburg, 1902. (Translated from German.)
Genkel’, P. A. “Fiziologiia ustoichivosti rastitel’nykh organizmov.” In Fiziologiia sel’skokhoziaistvennykh rastenii, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Vartapetian, B. B. Molekuliarnyi kislorod i voda v metabolizme kletki. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Describing a plant having juicy, fleshy tissue.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. (of plants) having thick fleshy leaves or stems
2. a plant that is able to exist in arid or salty conditions by using water stored in its fleshy tissues
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The increase in the salinity levels of the water used to prepare the nutrient solution reduced leaf succulence (LS) (Figure 2B); LS was equal to 0.0413 mg [H.sub.2]O [cm.sup.-2] at the highest salinity level (5.5 dS [m.sup.-1]) and to 0.0742 mg [H.sub.2]O [cm.sup.-2] at the lowest salinity level (0.2 dS [m.sup.-1]).
Results of salinity treatments versus leaf area, leaf succulence, root/shoot ratio and (radicle, hypocotyl) length, demonstrated in Tables 4 and 5.
As it affects the succulence and tenderness of the finished products as well as economic aspects of the operation, monitoring water-binding capacity is priority for the fish industry.
Something that could capture the romance of an alluring flower petal, the succulence of ripe fruit and the sublime tang of a fresh berry.
table with cronies as white and squeezed of succulence as he,
"Pakistani beef is already here and we are also seeing a substantial scope for the export of Pakistani fruits and vegetables to Malaysia," he said, referring to the popularity of Pakistani mangoes admired by the local Malaysians for their peculiar taste and succulence. Earlier, Datuk Mohammad Salim Fateh Din vowed to continue spearheading efforts from the forum of Malaysia-Pakistan Business Council to promote bilateral trade and strengthen community relationships between its members and the Pakistani community in Malaysia.
At Barcelos, special attention is given to the marinade and flame grilling processes, which makes a huge difference in succulence and flavour, while at the same time, focusing on healthy eating.
When we heard that Bernal Heights' Four Star Video turned its new-releases room Into a mini garden store called Succulence, we had a hunch it would be great--and it is.
Unlike chemical dyes, natural colourants do not erode the structure of wool fibres, but lend them sheen and succulence. Having mastered manufacturing techniques to perfection, Azerbaijan carpet makers began producing a variety of elaborate designs embracing such themes as astronomy, the tree of life, the sun motifs of the ancient Zoroastrians, and the symbols of Islam.
According to an old rule, you should only use mussels if there is an "r" in the month - and avoid them between May and August, when they tend to spawn and lose their succulence. But now they are very much at their best, so enjoy them.
Best bit: The beef and chicken are slow-cooked in a wonderful mix of spice and succulence; the tortillas are all homemade and are also available for purchase on their own.