When the Swiss botanist Augustin de Candolle described this species in 1838, he apparently saw a likeness to a Cotyledon. But when I ran through the mental pictures of Cotyledons that I know, I wondered what resemblance he could have had in mind. So, some detective work was called for.
Did de Candolle compare his new species to a plant that at that moment was incorporated in Cotyledon, but now belongs in another genus? That is certainly a possibility, as no less than 471 plant names have been associated with the genus at some stage.
On the other hand, looking through “Cotyledon and Tylecodon” by Van Jaarsveld and Koutnik, it struck me that some narrow-leaved forms of C. orbiculata could well have been the inspiration for de Candolle’s name. Let’s not forget that he probably knew many plants from descriptions or at best from black and white drawings, rather than from live material. In the book I just mentioned, there are a few reproduction of old illustrations. One dates back to 1701 and represents Cotyledon africana frutescens, folio longo & angusto…. ( the shrubby Cotyledon from Africa, with long, narrow leaves), which is now known as C. orbiculata var. spuria. This picture may well have spurred (pun intended) the author to use his epithet.
Well, enough of historical speculation, let’s move to present-day reality.
S. cotyledonis is a shrub of up to 1 m tall, with thickish stems and succulent triangular to almost round leaves up to 5 cm long and about 3 mm wide. The leaves give off an unpleasant smell when damaged, which is why it is called stinkbos in Afrikaans.
The plants flower in spring. They are widespread from Namibia to the eastern part of the Little Karoo. Usually they are found on dry stony slopes, but sometimes they are abundant in clayey soils.
To be continued.
Polytomus means something like much divided and refers to the fact that the plants are much more branched than in otherwise similar species like S. scottii and S. odora.
In nature the plants form compact shrubs up to about a meter tall; in cultivation they may reach 3 m.
They are locally common in the Sanaag region of northern Somaliland in dry bush land on stony plains and slopes at altitudes between 1000 and 1900 m.
The flowers range in colour from white and yellow to pink, purple and magenta. They usually appear in October and November, but the accompanying pictures were made in late January.
Scobinifolia means “with rasp-like leaves”, referring to the fact that the leaves of this species are rough to the touch.
The plants usually form small groups, with or without short stems. The inflorescence is 60-70 cm tall with yellow, orange or scarlet flowers mainly appearing between September and January.
The species used to occur in vast numbers around Erigavo in northern Somaliland, usually on exposed gypsum plains at an altitude of roughly 1250-1800 meters.
Unfortunately it is now considered endangered, as a result of habitat loss and degradation caused by logging and overgrazing (see first picture).
To be continued.
This little known species has a limited distribution on exposed south-facing limestone slopes and gravelly plains with sparse scrub in the Sanaag region of eastern Somaliland at an altitude of 1350-2000 m.
The plants form compact sturdy shrubs up to 1.5 m high; the branches have 4-6 angled segments 3-4 cm long and 4-7 cm wide, with a continuous horny margin and strong spines to 2.5 cm long.
To be continued.
The flowers are white to pale yellow and to 5.5 cm in diameter. They look as if made from crepe paper, thereby creating a striking contrast with the starkness of the spiny stems.