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New Issue | Mercosul Series: Fauna and Flora - Succulents

About the Stamps

To represent the enormous diversity of succulents, four plants were chosen: the rare Okra-da-lapa cactus (Uebelmannia pectinifera), the Mandacaru (Cereus jamacaru), an icon of sertão (Brazilian hinterland), the exotic Stone Plant (Lithops lesliei) and the resistant Sisal (Agave sisalana), portrayed in beautiful photos. The technique used was photography.

Mercosul Series: Fauna and Flora — Succulents

Succulents have been an object of fascination for centuries, mainly because of their relevance as masters of water usage and wonderfully extravagant forms. Although they are commonly treated as a single group, “succulent” is not a botanical classification, but rather a widespread characteristic in the plant kingdom. For a plant to be considered a succulent it is enough that it is capable of accumulating water in some part of its body, which can be in the stem, the leaves, or even in the roots. In other words, cacti, echeverias, desert rose (Adenium obesum), and even some orchids can be considered succulent plants.

Succulence is a trait highly associated with resilience. This is why it is so present in plants that inhabit arid regions of the globe. Especially since lack of water is the biggest factor preventing a plant from surviving. However, we can find succulent plants in the most diverse environments, including humid forests. A classic example are the epiphytic cacti of the Atlantic rainforest, such as Rhipsalis, the mistletoe cacti. It may be counterintuitive, but the treetops where these cacti live have little water availability. In this niche, epiphytes do not have access to the water reserves in the soil and therefore need to survive only on rainwater or moisture in the air. This incredible mechanism allows that, in Brazil, succulents can be found inhabiting from the rocks in Rio Grande Sul to the Amazon forest.

It is estimated that there are more than 12,000 species of succulents distributed mainly in southern and eastern Africa, the Andes Mountains, Brazil, Mexico, and the deserts of North America. However, these plants have a high degree of endemism, that is, they are species that occur only in very restricted places, which makes most succulents very susceptible to habitat loss and climate change and, as a consequence, many are threatened with extinction.

If, on the one hand, global warming affects the survival of various succulents in their natural environments, on the other hand, these plants represent the future of agriculture. Today many succulents are already cultivated on a large scale, such as the Aloe vera, the palm tree (Opuntia fícus-indica), and the agaves. These plants, like sugarcane, have the ability to accumulate many sugars that can be converted into biofuels. However, there is one big difference: water consumption. These succulents can use up to 80% less water than traditional crops. In a world with increasingly irregular rainfall, that is, one hour it rains too much and another too little, good water management will be fundamental.

In this selection we represent two rare plants that enchant the eye (Uebelmannia pectinifera and Lithops lesliei) and two succulents that are at the cultural core of the Brazilian Sertão (Cereus jamacaru and Agave sisalana).

Uebelmannia pectinifera subsp flavispina (Buining & Brederoo)

Family: Cactaceae

Popular name, in Brazil: Quiabo-da-lapa

Uebelmannia pectinifera is one of the rarest cacti in the Brazilian flora. Unlike the other Brazilian cacti, this species presents very close woolly areolas, forming an almost continuous row of spines in its ribs. Uebelmannia is a genus of highly endemic cacti found only in the rupestrian fields of the Espinhaço Range in Minas Gerais, a region considered a center of biodiversity between the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest. The subspecies with yellow thorns, represented here, is even rarer, both in cultivation and in nature, and is native only to the municipality of Diamantina-MG.

Lithops lesliei (N.E.Br.)

Family: Aizoaceae

Popular name, in Brazil: Planta-pedra

Lithops is one of the most iconic genera of succulents. These plants are native to desert regions in Namibia and South Africa, and their name is a combination of two Greek words: Litho (“stone”) and ops (“face”). In their natural environment, these species mimic stones and thus avoid being predated. It is estimated that there are around 300 species of Lithops, which are distinguished by the diverse patterns of their succulent leaves. Besides being masters of disguise, Lithops have numerous morphological and physiological adaptations to thrive in these extreme environments. However, these characteristics make these plants reasonably difficult to cultivate.

Cereus jamacaru (DC.)

Family: Cactaceae

Popular name, in Brazil: Mandacaru

Cereus jamacaru (Mandacaru) is one of the most typical cacti in the Brazilian semiarid landscapes. This species, which can exceed 10 meters in height, is found naturally from Piauí to Minas Gerais but can be cultivated in practically all of Brazil. Mandacaru has large, white, nocturnal flowers that are usually pollinated by bats or moths and bear fleshy, edible fruit. Mandacaru was once widely used in civil construction but is now standing out for its biotechnological potential in the cosmetics and food industries.

Agave sisalana (Perrine)

Family: Asparagaceae

Popular name, in Brazil: Sisal

Agaves are native Mexican semiarid plants, and have been used there for centuries as a source of fiber, sugars, food, drinks, soap, and even as needles. However, Brazil is the largest producer of Agave fiber in the world. This fiber, known as Sisal, is obtained from the leaves of the Agave sisalana tree and its cultivation has great socioeconomic importance, often being the only alternative with economic gains in the Brazilian semiarid region. Today, Sisal is used mainly in cordage, especially for handicrafts and naval use, but its bagasse has shown potential for bioinsecticides, nanocellulose, and even biogas.

Me. Fábio Trigo Raya

Peeling the Science | Genomics and BioEnergy Laboratory (Unicamp)

Technical Details

Stamp issue N. 14

Photos: Fábio Raya

Print system: offset

Paper: gummed chalky paper

Sheet with 16 stamps

Facial value: R$ 2.60 each stamp

Issue: 128,000 stamps

Design area: 25 x 35mm

Stamp dimensions: 30 x 40mm

Perforation: 12 x 11.5

Date of issue: September 22th, 2022

Places of issue: Brasília/DF and São Paulo/SP

Printing: Brazilian Mint

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