Succulents may be described as plants which are adapted to store water in their leaves, branches or stem bases in order to be able to survive long periods without water. These succulent storage organs led to their descriptive name in Afrikaans: vetplant (fat plant). As can be expected, most succulents are found in arid parts of the world, although some are also adapted to grow in areas with a high rainfall.
Southern Africa is one of the most succulent rich areas in the world. Of the world's approximately 10,000 succulent species, nearly half originate from Southern Africa. World-wide there is a tremendous active interest in the succulents of the region.
There are a number of reasons for the interest succulents enjoy among plant- and nature lovers, gardeners and botanists. The ability to survive in the most hostile environment, the fascinating growth forms and spectacular flowers which occur amongst these plants, the fact that the plants can be transplanted fairly easily and can in the most instances grow happily for weeks and even months almost care free, all lead to the special interest succulents enjoy.
From the viewpoint of conservation there is also enough reason to devote special attention to succulents. A delicate balance exists in the habitat of most of these plants. A slight disturbance of this balance may seriously endanger their survival. Many succulents are also endangered because they are much sought after collectors' items, which leads to the illegal removal of plants from the veld.
The South African Aloe and Succulent Society was founded in 1963 when a few succulent enthusiasts realised that Southern Africa's succulent richness and the wide interest in the plants necessitated a society having as its aims the conservation of these plants and the making available of both information on succulents and the plants themselves. In 1988 the name was shortened to the Succulent Society of South Africa.