A succulent plant, also called a malacophyte, is a fleshy plant adapted to survive in arid environments due to the characteristics of the soil, the climate or a high salt concentration (in the latter case, we speak of a halophyte plant). The adaptation of these plants, different from those of xerophyte plants proper, is linked to their ability to store water in the leaves, stems or roots. Succulents are very often xerophytic (they can prevent water loss). For example, the leaves may be covered with wax or hair, or have a reduced surface area.
Succulent plants are geographically distributed along the seashore, in the plains, in the great hot deserts of the world, in the mountains up to several thousand meters in altitude depending on the species. They are able to quickly assimilate rainwater in the soil, but some take advantage of the morning fogs by the sea which are their only source of water for very long periods.
The term comes from the Latin suculentus, which means “full of juice”.
Succulents are sometimes called “fat plants”. Wrongly, because they do not contain fat. This name evokes the thick and viscous aspect of their sap called “suc”.
Some species of succulents, including Crassulaceae and Euphorbiaceae can be grown as bonsai.