Friday, August 8, 2008

One Week To Go

Next friday, the 16th Eastern Cactus and Succulent Conference starts off a weekend of desert plant-induced nirvana in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, with vendors, social events, auctions, a judged show and presentations by noted succulent plant experts from around the globe. I'll be giving two talks, as well. Every succulent plant enthusiast in the area should try to attend; the speakers list--which includes Steve Hammer from California and Ernst van Jaarsveld from Cape Town, South Africa--is reason enough to be there, and is easily the equal of what you'd get in a national convention.

The preliminary schedule of events is shaping up like this:

Friday - August 15th
  • 4:00 PM Glen Lord / Chris Allen - Succulent Bonsai
  • 5:00 PM Fred Kattermann - The Genus Copiapoa
  • 6:00 PM Matt Mattus - South African Bulbs
  • 7:30 PM Welcome Social
Saturday - August 16th
  • 8:30 Affiliates Meeting
  • 9:00 AM Dennis Cathcart - Succulent Terrestrial & Lithophytic Bromeliads
  • 10:00 AM Jerry Barad - Travelogue or Stapeliads
  • 1:00 AM Ernst van Jaarsveld - Gasterias
  • 12:00 PM Lunch
  • 1:00 PM Fred Kattermann - The Cacti of Chile
  • 2:00 PM Steve Hammer - Mesembs
  • 3:00 PM Matt Opel - Conophytum
  • 4:00 PM Panayoti Kelaidis - Succulents on Skis
  • 5:15 PM Mark Dimmitt - C&S of Northern Mexico
  • 7:00 PM Banquet social/cocktails
  • 7:30 PM Banquet
  • 9:00 PM Specimen Plant Auction
Sunday - August 17th
  • 8:00 AM Breakfast Social
  • 9:00 AM Panayoti Kelaidis - Hardy C&S in Denver OR C&S of the Rockies
  • 10:00 AM Mark Dimmitt - Adeniums
  • 11:00 AM Panel Discussion - the gang
  • 12:00 PM Lunch
  • 1:00 PM Steve Hammer - Haworthias
  • 2:00 PM Matt Opel - Nomenclature & Evolution
  • 3:00 PM Ernst van Jaarsveld - Glories of the Veld
  • 4:00 PM Conclusion ceremony
  • 5:00 PM Conference ends
Monday - August 18th
  • 9:00 AM Optional tour to Boston
My first talk will be on Conophytum, a fairly speciose (almost wrote "specious") genus of compact leaf succulents from the winter-rainfall regions of South Africa. It's quite a diverse group, and includes a number of species of "living stone"--plants that are camouflaged like the local geology--as well as taxa that are specialized for growth on mossy rocks, some that are subterranean, and even a few dwarf shrubs. I'll discuss the plants as they grow in habitat, as well as how to keep them going under glass. Conos are my area of specialization and the subject of my dissertation, but I have to say that with Steve and Ernst in the audience, I'll feel a bit like a punk kid MBA giving a talk on running a successful computer company, with Bill Gates sitting in the front row.

My second talk, on Nomenclature and Evolution, will be experimental; I've never presented anything similar before. I'll talk a bit about how plants receive their scientific names, about species concepts, and about how biologists investigate the evolutionary history of plant groups. But the meat of the presentation will be a series of case studies of situations where modern findings about the evolutionary relationships of succulent plants have forced changes that strike many hobbyists as gratuitously confusing. I will consider shocking consolidations in the mesembs, for example, and investigate the mysterious disappearance of the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed family), former home of the succulent stapeliads. Yeah, it'll probably be a good time for a Dunkin' Donuts run. I'll try to include some pretty plant photos to break up the hypnotic parade of phylogenetic trees, anyway.

Dactylopsis digitata ssp. littlewoodii (center), now sometimes considered part of the genus Phyllobolus or Mesembryanthemum. The plant in flower is Argyroderma cf. testiculare. This is a photo from July 2004, taken in a quartz field near Bitterfontein, in the northern Knersvlakte, Western Cape, South Africa.

4 comments:

Mary said...

Okay! Are you going to post any of your talk notes here on your blog? I'm especially interested in your thoughts on Nomenclature and Evolution!

Matt said...

I'll see what I can do, and will probably post a basic rundown of the convention after it finishes, anyway. My talk notes tend to be pretty cryptic-- a few words for each slide to remind me of what I need to talk about, scrawled on a bit of scrap paper.

mary said...

Understood. Well, have fun at the convention.

Julie said...

How I wish I could be there!!!!! How exciting to be a speaker. I know you will be in heaven there, and I hope it is just wonderful. Meanwhile I will be sitting home and dreaming about it all.