The principal objectives of the BCSS are to promote the study, conservation, propagation and cultivation of cacti and other succulent plants.
Membership of the Society is international and open to all. We currently have about 3,000 members and this includes a whole range of interests from novice windowsill growers to experts. The Society has more than 70 branches in the UK, each of which organises an active programme of local events every year. At the national level, we hold an International Convention every 4 years, and a National Show in the intervening periods.
Participation can be at any level, whether you grow just a few plants for fun, are a serious student of botany, or at any other stage in between. All members are valued as part of a friendly and cohesive social group. Apart from the immense pleasure and sense of satisfaction that raising and growing interesting plants brings, the BCSS also has another dimension in the struggle to protect the world’s heritage of wild and cultivated cacti and other succulent plants from the various threats that the modern era poses.
Many members chose to subscribe just for the publications rather than the activities. Our lavishly illustrated house journal, CactusWorld, is well worth the annual subscription alone. A yearbook, Bradleya, that has been published since 1983, contains the more technical articles and has set new standards of excellence for a botanical journal devoted to succulent plants. The BCSS is also a publisher of books, usually on particular popular genera, and co-published the new definitive work on Aloes jointly with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Although the majority of our members are in the UK and Ireland we have a large overseas membership with members in more than 60 countries. Everyone is eligible to join. You can receive our high-quality quarterly magazine by subscribing online.
The current British Cactus and Succulent Society was formed at the beginning of 1983 by the amalgamation of the two former societies, The National Cactus and Succulent Society (1945-1982) and The Cactus and Succulent Society of Great Britain (1932-1982). It is a registered, gift-aided charity.
The old ‘GB Society’, as it was affectionately referred to, began in the midst of the Great Depression years as an affiliate of the Royal Horticultural Society. It held its early meetings and kept a modest library in a room at the RHS Hall in London. The principal driving force behind it was Mrs. Vera Higgins (1892-1962), the first editor of its journal for the seven years leading up to WW2. During the war years, she edited the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, and was awarded a Victoria Medal of Honour in 1946.
As Britain emerged from a postwar period of austerity in 1945, it was at first looking as though the GB Society was not going to survive. So a small group of Yorkshire stalwarts, led by the Bradford mill owner Herbert Michael Roan (1909-2003), formed The Yorkshire Cactus Society, publishing what was at that time a very high quality journal from March 1946. By the start of the following year, it had flourished so well that it became a national institution and was renamed as The National Cactus and Succulent Society.
The uneasy coalition of the two rival societies in 1983 was not at first without its stresses and strains, but it soon became accepted and welcomed by all, taking its rightful place as a world-class organisation, respected everywhere.