It is usually easy to identify a plant as a Malephora. Beyond that however, things are rather muddled up. So it is with some trepidation that I attach a species name to the pictures shown here.
M. mollis is described as a profusely branched shrub up to 50 cm tall, with leaves three-angled to round in cross-section and to 20 mm long and about 3 mm thick.
The distribution area is given as Laingsburg and both the flowering time and the habitat as unknown.
The photos were taken on stony flats northwest of Laingsburg, between early August and mid-October.
Four of the six species belonging to the section Columnares of Crassula are more or less well known (barklyi, congesta, pyramidalis and -of course- columnaris).
One other (C. multiceps) I have never even seen and the subject of this post is not widely known either.
It is a small, more or less erect plant, 8-25 cm tall when in flower, sometimes with several short branches at the base. The green to brown leaves are normally all about the same length (usually 5-8 mm but sometimes to 1.5 cm). They often covered with sand particles.
In September-November, the main stem bears many small rounded inflorescences on the upper part of the flower stalk.
The plants occur from Vanrhynsdorp to Calvinia, Worcester and Montagu on sandy or gravelly slopes (often facing south).
This species occurs in the western Karoo from Matjiesfontein to near Calvinia and is closely related to E. loricata and E. multifolia. (Peter Bruyns in “Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region”, published in 2013, even considers it a synonym of E. loricata).
The plants form rounded cushions to about 15 cm tall and to 30 cm or more in diameter, with many branches, which usually completely hide the main stem.
The 2-5 cm long white spines, which are in fact modified peduncles, are very obvious in the dry season; in winter and spring they are partly hidden by the up to 4 cm long leaves.
It’s a bit of a pity that the former genus name has been dropped, as it aptly suggested the way in which the persistent old, dry leaves form a sceleton protecting the new leaves.
The creeping or scrambling plants have imbricate leaves (overlapping like the tiles of a roof); which are to 4 cm long and 2 cm wide, with the tips turned inwards.
The flowers are white to pale yellow, pale salmon or pale pink, about 2-3 cm in diameter; they have a short stalk and appear in July-October.
It is a widespread species, occurring under bushes or in the open from Namaqualand to Montagu and Aberdeen in both winter and summer rainfall areas; often on quartz.
As in other members of the genus, the plants contain the alkaloid mesembrymine and have medicinal properties. The fermented leaves are widely used as a sedative and to relieve pain such as toothache and stomach ache. The concoction can also cause drunkenness.
According to the literature, this is a more or less erect shrub up to 9 cm tall.
The leaves are 5-8 mm long and 4 mm wide and thick, tipped with a diadem consisting of 4-9 bristles*.
The white flowers are about 3.8 cm wide and appear in spring and summer: Sept.-Dec.; they produce fruits with 5 or 6 compartments.
The plants occur in the Willowmore district.
* In some of the plants shown here, the diadems have many more bristles. Because all other characteristics agree, I take it all pictures represent the same species.
There are only three species of Tanquana; the other two being T. hilmarii and T. archeri (which I have never seen). All three used to be called Pleiospilos because of the dotted leaves, but actually the two genera are not closely related.
Over time T. prismatica may form clusters of up to 30 branches. The leaves are unequal, egg-shaped in young plants but more oblong later, with a length of 2.5-4 cm.
The strongly scented flowers are to 4 cm in diameter and appear from February to May.
The plants are not uncommon on stony flats in the Ceres-Laingsburg area, where they receive 100-150 mm rain per year, mainly in winter.
Below are some pictures to give you an idea of the conditions in the plants’ habitat.