Three varieties of Echeveria cuspidata

Myron Kimnach

Figure 1 Three varieties of Echeveria cuspidata. Upper row, left to right: var gemmula, Hogan 5366; var gemmula, Metorn s.n.; var zaragozae, Lau s.n. Lower row, var cuspidata; left to right: Lau 036, Brack 1447, Busek s.n.


Echeveria cuspidata Rose var cuspidata (Crassulaceae) is a saxicolous succulent native to northern Mexico, including the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas. In several studied populations there is some variation in the size of leaves and corolla. Two new varieties arc described here: E. cuspidata var zaragozae Kimn., from near Zaragoza, Nuevo Leon, with smaller, more oblanceolate, blu­ish-green leaves, and var gemmula Kimn., from Nuevo Leon and Queretaro, with much narrower, white to pinkish leaves.

Echeveria cuspidata var cuspidata

Echeveria cuspidata var cuspidata (Fig 1, lower row) is rather widely distributed in the state of Coahuila, with a less certain record for Tamaulipas. Walther (1) believed that it and E. parrasensis Walther were different species and even placed them in separate series, the former in the Secundae, the latter in the Urceolatae. Moran (2) was first to point out that Walther had confused the two species, in some cases citing the same herbarium specimens and localities for both. According to Uhl (3,4) the cytology of var cuspidata places it in the Urceolatae, and he reported n = 31 in five collections (including E. parrasensis) from near Saltillo, Coahuila. (Unfortunately, the two new varieties described below have not been examined cytologically.) Variation in var cuspidata is mainly seen in leaf-size and -shape, in size and expansion of sepals, and in corolla-size. The collection with the smallest leaves is Lau 036 (ca. 3 cm long and 15 mm wide), although in every other respect it is typical variety cuspidata. It was reputedly collected in Tamaulipas only some 50 km from variety zaragozae (see below under that variety), but its presence there should be verified because it has not been recorded from the intervening state of Nuevo León.

Echeveria cuspidata Rose var cuspidata

Echeveria cuspidata Rose, in Britt. & Rose, N. Amer. Fl. 22: 22. 1905.

Echeveria parrasensis Walther, Cact. Succ. J. (US) 31: 99. 1959.

Stem remaining short, usually 5-7 cm long, 10-15 mm thick. Rosettes usually single, 10-15 cm wide; leaves 24-40 to a rosette, obovate to obovate-cuneate, quickly narrowing within 2 cm of apex, mucronate-apiculate, upper surface flat to concave, lower surface rounded, somewhat obtusely keeled, upper surface less keeled, 3-7 cm long, 15-30 mm wide at widest part 1-2 cm below apex, 3-5 mm thick, glaucous, gray to bluish green, mucro or awn reddish. Flowering stems single to several, usually unbranched, rarely bifurcate, the rachis 24-45 cm long, 3-6 mm thick, pinkish-white to pinkish-orange; bracts ascending, linear-lanceolate, acuminate, 10-15 mm long, ca. 3-4 mm wide; pedicels ascending, 15-25 mm long, 1.5-2.5 mm thick, pinkish; sepals unequal in size, deltoid to oblanceolate, often mucronate, nearly appressed to expanding, 1.5-10 mm long, 1-5 mm wide, 0.5-2 mm thick, pinkish to bluish gray; corolla urceolate, ca. 12 mm long, 5-6 mm thick along 5-6 mm thick along basal third, ca. 4 mm thick at narrowest part, petals expanding slightly at apex, bright orange, inner surface paler; antesepalous filaments ca. 7 mm long, the antepetalous ca. 6 mm long; gynoecium ovoid, ca. 5 mm long and thick, greenish yellow, style ca. 2.5 mm long, greenish; nectaries truncate, yellowish green. Chromosome number: n = 31. Specimens examined: MEXICO. Coahuila: 9 km S of Tenejote, on top of hill, near El Cinco de Mayo and Parras, 2000m, April 1989, J. Busek s.n. (HNT); El Cinco, 6500', W. Minnich 9523 (HNT); Los Imagenes, S Brack 1447 (HNT). Tamaulipas (?): (reputedly collected ca. 15 km W of Ciudad Victoria, near Reja, Cerro de la Reforma, 2000 m, on granite rocks, August 1971, A. Lau 036 (HNT), Huntington B. G. 41278).

Echeveria cuspidata var zaragozae

Some unpublished taxa are known for years before their status is determined, usually because there is inadequate material for study. Some 32 years have gone by since the first discovery of the plant to be described here, yet all during that time it has been grown in a few collections.

As far as known, it was first found by Charles Glass (perhaps in company with Robert Foster) on March 1, 1972, while exploring for plants in Nuevo León. On page 30 of the section "Abbey Garden Cusihuiriachi-Zaragosa Expedition: Jan. 10 March 9, 1972", in Mexico logbook5, the notes mention stopping 8.5 miles south of Aramberri, and then, "three-tenths of a mile further, just as the road curves to descend a small ways into the valley, I stopped again to investigate some nearly bare gypsum hills, nearly pure gypsum soil and rock, sparse vegetation of guapilla and sotol. Found: 3908, Echeveria sp, perhaps nova, growing on the sheer, crumbly gypsum cliffs, small blue rosettes with dark cusps on the leaves and in flower." Growing with it were Mammillaria picta and a cactus that was later named Gymnocactus subterraneus var zaragosae Glass & Foster, which they mentioned (6) was growing with "an attractive little blue leaved echeveria."

These plants were found just before reaching Zaragoza, or, as it is more formally known, General Ignacio Zaragoza (spelled as Zaragosa by Glass and Foster). It was next collected there by Charles Glass, David Grigsby and Kitty Sabo in March 1980, a collection cultivated at the Huntington under its accession number 42642. Alfred Lau also found it at Zaragoza, and Figures 1 (upper right), 3, 4 and 5 are of this collection, which is being propagated for further distribution. Glass collected more plants-under his number 5186-at the site on December 21, 1991.

My first reaction upon seeing some of these plants was that they were Echeveria turgida, known only from around Viesca, Coahuila, some 320 km (200 mi) northwest of Zaragoza. However, Glass later collected E. turgida at Viesca, and the differences in the two popula­tions became apparent, the Zaragoza plant being more similar to E. cuspidata.

As I have been able to study additional clones of Echeveria cuspidata, it has become increasing­ly clear that this is indeed a variable species. The lower row in figure 1 shows three of these clones, among which the Busek collection is notable for its large leaves. However, size alone hardly justi­fies establishing a new taxon. The flowers of all these clones, including the Zaragoza plant, are nearly identical, but in the latter the corolla is often slightly longer and thicker, and the leaves have a distinct shape and coloration. It is also rather isolated from the other collections of E. cuspidata except for Lau 036, said to have been collected 15 km west of Ciudad Victoria and some 50 km northwest of Zaragoza. The other known populations of E. cuspidata are some 160 km to the north, in Coahuila.

The bluish rosettes of E. cuspidata var zaragozae are quite attractive, especially when the bright reddish-orange flowers and flowering stems are present.

Figure 3 Echeveria cuspidata var. zaragozae (Lau s.n.)

Echeveria cuspidata var zaragozae Kimnach var. nov.

Differt a var cuspidata et var gemmula foliis obovato-cuneatis mucronatis 12-50 mm longis 10-16 mm latis griseo-venetis, pagina superna carina albida.

Stem 1-4 cm high, 7-9 mm thick. Rosettes usually sin­gle, (3.6-)6-10 cm wide, (2-)4-6 cm high. Leaves 30-70 to a rosette, erect when young, slightly deflexed when old, obovate or obovate-cuneate, tapering toward base, obtuse but with a prominent purplish red mucro 1-2 mm long, upper side slightly concave to flat, often with a low, paler-colored, central keel, lower side strongly convex and slightly keeled near apex. 12-50 mm long, 10-16 mm wide 4-8 mm below apex, 4-7 mm wide near base, 4-6 mm thick on apical half, 3-4 mm thick near base, younger leaves blu­ish-green, older leaves less bluish, all suffused pinkish on apical half.

Flowering stems appearing from March to May, 1-3 per rosette, each with 1 (or 2) unbranched cincinni, 11-23 cm long, first flowers beginning 8-20 cm from base, rachis 2-4 mm thick near base, 1-2 mm thick along inflorescence, pinkish orange, slightly glaucous, bracts more or less paral­lel to rachis, 3-8 below flowers, up to 10 above on inflo­rescence, linear-lanceolate, acute, 2-8 mm long, 1-4 mm wide; pedicels 8-18 mm long, 1-1.5 mm thick, tapering toward base, pinkish orange; sepals expanding slightly at apex, unequal, ovate to ovate-deltoid, 2-3 mm long, 1-2 mm wide at base, ca. 0.5 mm thick near base, purplish orange; corolla urceolate, 10-13 mm long, 6-8 mm thick near base, 4-5 mm thick just below apex, orange; petals expanding slightly at apex, linear-ovate, ca. 3 mm wide on basal half, pinkish yellow within; antepetalous stamens 5 mm long, antesepalous 6 mm long, all filaments 0.75 mm wide near base, tapering upwards; anthers linear, 1 mm long, ca. 0.25 mm wide, yellowish; gynoecium ovoid, 5 mm long, 4 mm thick at middle, greenish cream, styles connivent, ca. 2 mm long, yellowish green; nectaries quadrate, ca. 1.5 mm wide, 0.5 mm thick, yellowish.

Type: MEXICO: Nuevo Leon: on gypsum hills just before reaching Zaragoza, ca. 16 km (10 mi) S of Aramberri, March 1980, Huntington Botanical Gardens 42642, C. Glass, D. Grigsby & K. Sabo s.n. (holotype, HNT). Paratypes: Zaragoza, A. Lau s.n. (HNT, MEXU).

Figure 4 Variety zaragozae (Lau s.n.) as cultivated by Helmut Regnat in Germany. Photo by Helmut Regnat.

Echeveria cuspidata var gemmula

I first became aware of this distinctive variety in March of 1994, when John G. Fairey of Yucca Do Nursery in Waller, Texas, sent me some echeverias he had recently collected in Mexico. They turned out to be E. runyonii Rose ex Walther, a species not previously known from a recorded wild local­ity. He had found the plants in Tamaulipas (not in Nuevo Leon, as I have erroneously stated (7)). He also sent slides of several other unnamed echeve­rias, including one (Fig 6) of a plant found by Sean Hogan, a nurseryman in Portland, Oregon.

In December of 1993 Sean had accompa­nied Fairey on an expedition into northeastern Mexico. Between Aramberri and Zaragoza, Nuevo Leon, in a small canyon near La Hoya de Eulalio, he noticed small echeverias on a can­yon wall. The rosettes were less than an inch wide and "well-camouflaged with liverworts and selaginella," to quote his recent letter. Associated plants were Celtis pallida, Leucophyllum, Rhus, several species of the fern genus Cheilanthes and an apparently new, miniature species of Quercus. I did not actually see live plants of the echeveria until February 2002, when I obtained one from the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley, where Sean had been employed earlier and where he had propagated the species.

Figure 7 Echeveria cuspidata var gemmula (Hogan 5366)

Three years before that, in May of 1999, I was visiting the Zurich Succulent Collection and noticed a small white-leaved echeveria originally collected by Wolfgang Metorn, an Echinocereus specialist in Germany. He had found it in 1989 near Jalpan, Queretaro, some 200 miles south of Hogan's locality. The Curator, Dieter Supthut, generously gave me its only offset, which has flowered during the last three years. The plant (Fig 1, center of upper row) is highly attractive because of its dainty rosette of chalky-white, red-tipped leaves.

Because of the 200-mile gap between their localities, I had not at first realized that the Hogan and Metorn collections were so closely related, but I now believe that together they comprise a distinct new variety. There may be other popula­tions in the large area separating them, or there may be none at all. And although only one to several clones are known from each of the two populations, the differences between them are no greater than those found within many echeveria species. In the Metorn collection the leaves are less upcurving, whiter, slightly longer and wider, with a more prominent mucro, and the corolla is darker orange. Among the Hogan clones, one has slightly pinker leaves and smaller flowers.

The delicate beauty of this small echeveria (Figs 6-9) prompts me to christen it variety gemmula (pronounced JEM-you-luh), meaning "little jewel."

Figure 8 (Left) Inflorescence of variety gemmula (Hogan 5366). Figure 9 (Right) Inflorescence of variety gemmula (Metorn s.n.).

Echeveria cuspidata var gemmula Kimnach var. nov.

Differt a var cuspidata et var zaragozae foliis oblanceolato-linearis aristatis 30-40 mm longis 8-12 mm latis azureo-vel raseo-albidis.

Stem up to 6 an long or more, 2-2.5 cm thick. Rosette usually single, 9-11 cm wide, 5-6 cm high. Leaves 60-80 to a rosette, all but the old­est upcurving, erect when young, nearly horizontal but with the apical naif slightly ascending when old, oblancedate, oldest ones becoming somewhat deflexed, slightly narrowing toward base, abruptly nan-owing within 4-8 mm of apex, aristate, the awn slightly recurving and often sinuous, 2-4 mm long and reddened, margins rounded, upper side slightly convex, lower side strongly convex, slightly keeled only near apex, upper side only sometimes slightly keeled. 30-40 mm long, 8-12 mm wide ca. 5 mm below apex, ca. 6 mm wide near base. 4-5 mm thick, epidermis with a bluish-white, sightly pinkish-tinged waxy covering.

Flowering stems 2-4 per rosette, appearing March-April, 12-35 an long. 2-3.5 mm thick near base, 1-2 mm thick near apex, pinkish orange; bracts 2-13 below lowest flower, 4-7 above, slightly expanding along apical half, linear-lanceolate, acute, 2-11 mm long, 1-3 mm wide, pinkish orange; flowers 4-14 per cincinnus, single; pedicels 8-18 mm long, 0.5-1 mm thick, narrowing toward base; sepals ascending, irregular, ovate-deltoid, acute, 1.2-5 mm long, 1-3 mm wide near base, faintly purplish, glaucous; corota urceolate, 9-11 mm long, 6-7 mm thick near base, 4-6 mm thick just below apex, orange on exterior, yelowish within near apex, petals expanding at apex, oblong-lan­ceolate, obtuse, minutely mucronate; antepetalous stamens 4 mm long, antesepalous stamens 5 mm long, all filaments ca. 0.5 mm wide, yellowish, anthers oblong, ca. 0.75 mm long, 0.33 mm wide; gynoecium ovoid-globose, 5 mm long, 3.5 mm thick, greenish cream, styles connivent, 1-5 mm long, cream; nectaries 0.5 mm wide. 0.25 mm thick, greenish cream.

Mexico: Queretaro: Jalpan, Wolfgang Metorn s.n., March or April 1989, ZSS 97 1262 (HNT, holotype; MEXU, tsotype). Nuevo Leon: between Aramberri and Zaragoza. E of the pass between the two towns. Sierra Lampazos, 0.4 miles E of La Hoya de Eulalio, on south-facing gypsum cliffs in small canyons, 1200 m, Dec 29, 1993. Sean Hogan 5366, UCBG 94.0110 (HNT, MEXU. paratypes).


Differences among the varieties of E. cuspidata are tabulated on page 33. The floral differences appear to be trivial, and they may be inconsistent as well, but this cannot be determined from the few clones available for study.

The nearest ally of E. cuspidata is probably E. turgida Rose of Coahuila. It differs primarily in its nearly truncate leaves and thicker corolla with recurving petal-apices.

Plants of var gemmula were gratefully received from Dieter Supthut of the Zurich Succulent Collection and from the University of California Botanic Garden, Berkeley, where Holly Forbes, Fred Dortort and Bill Barany provided information and plants. Sean Hogan, Carl Schoenfeld and John Fairey furnished photos and data for this variety, while Reid Moran and Charles Uhl made helpful suggestions concerning the manuscript.


1 Walther E. 1972. Echeveria. San Francisco.

2 Moran R. 1972. Eric Walther's monograph of Echeveria. a book review. Cact Succ J (US) 44(5): 22S.

3 Uhl C. 1996. Chromosomes and hybrids of Echeveria IV. Series Urceolatae. Haseltonia 4: 79-SO.

4 Uhl C. 1995. Chromosomes and hybrids of Echeveria (Crassulaceae) III. Series Secundae. Haseltonia 3: 34-48.

5 Glass C, Foster R. No date. Mexico Logbook-the field expedition notes of Charles Glass and Robert Foster. Self-published.

6 Glass C, Foster R. 1978. Two new varieties of Gymnocactus from northeastern Mexico. Cact Succ J (US) 50: 281-286.

7 Kimnach M. 2003. In U Eggli (ed), Illustrated hand­book of succulent plants. Crassulaceae: Echeveria, 122. Springer-Verlag.

© Cactus & Succulent Journal of America, 2005