Gibbaeum (Muiria) hortenseae

These peculiar and very distinctive plants form little clumps of soft and velvety-hairy* leaf-bodies which are about 4 cm tall and 3 cm in diameter.
During the long resting period, the bodies are completely enclosed in the dry sheath-like remains of the previous pairs of leaves.
Because the leaves are completely united, the flowers have to rupture the tops of the bodies in order to emerge. They are about 2 cm in diameter, white to mauve and appear from November to Januari.
The plants are locally abundant on quartz outcrops, but are known from only one location (west of Barrydale in the  western Little Karoo), in a highly saline area. They grow together with G. album -see first picture- and sometimes hybridise.

In his book Flowering stones and Midday flowers, Gustav Schwantes dedicates nearly 3 pages to this species and he is clearly highly impressed by it, as witnessed by the following remarks:
“The plant exhibits the highest expression of leaf succulence in the whole plant kingdom.
There is nothing of greater interest among the Mesembryanthemaceae than this living creature which is so unusual in shape and structure”.

*the hairs are among the longest in the family.

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Euphorbia gamkensis

Mature plants of this species usually have a globose caudex to 10 cm tall and to 9 cm in diameter. The branches are about a cm thick and normally about 1.8 cm long.

The species is very rare and only occurs between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. It was described in 1999, but nowadays the consensus seems to be that it should be incorporated in E. decepta.

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Augea capensis

When one sees a great many of these plants together, this usually means that the  local vegetation has been heavily disturbed (the plants are rarely eaten by stock or game because the juice in the leaves is very salty). They can absorb a great amount of water after rain, not only in the leaves but also in the roots.

The plants usually live for only a few years or, in more official terms, they are annuals or short-lived perennials, up to 50 cm tall with leaves 3-4 cm long and about 1 cm thick.
The flowers appear in spring (August-October) and produce large fruits with woolly seeds.
This species (the only one in the genus) is widespread on dry sandy or loamy flats from southern Namibia and Bushmanland to the Little Karoo.

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Mesembryanthemum (Sceletium) tortuosum (part 1 of 2)

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.

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Cotyledon papillaris

Although this is a very variable species with several synoniems, it is nevertheless easy  to identify.
The plants are low, spreading shrublets with branches to 25 cm long, often rooting at nodes and bearing leaves 15-60 mm long and 4-13 mm wide, yellowish-green to glaucous*, usually with a red tip or margin.
The flowers vary in colour from yellowish and orange to darkish pink and deep red, with a tube 5-8 mm long and lobes 10-15 mm long. They appear mainly in October-February, but also after rain  at other times.

Usually the plants occur on stony slopes and flats; they are often abundant in the shade of small bushes. They are widespread from southwestern Namibia to the Little Karoo and extending into the Eastern Cape.

*glaucous: covered with a thin greyish-white to bluish-green layer of wax.

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Othonna protecta

As the name implies, this species is often hiding under other plants or between rocks. For that reason, it is not easy to make good pictures of it. The photographer usually must choose between showing either what the plant looks like or how well it is hidden.

The plants are shrublets with fat (pachycaul) barrel-or flask-shaped stems and thin branches up to 30 cm long. They have soft leaves, which are mainly crowded at the branch tips and are long and narrow: 40-100 mm long and 2-3 mm wide.
The flowers appear from April to October.
One can come across these plant from central Namibia to the Little Karoo on gravelly flats and slopes.

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Crassula nemorosa (part 1 of 2)

These charming little plants have erect or sprawling stems , 4-10 (-15) cm long.
They are geophytes, with many small tubers (rarely over 0.5 cm in diameter).
The slightly fleshy leaves are grey-green or greyish brown and the star- to cup-shaped flowers are pale yellowish-green to brown with 2-3.5 mm long lobes.
While the flowers usually appear between June and August, depending on rainfall this may also happen at other times.
The distribution area ranges from South Namibia to the Little Karoo and the Eastern Cape, but the plants only occur in sheltered spots on rocky slopes and in crevices.

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crasnemo 1888

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