Apparently not all experts agree on what is a succulent and what is not. The subject of this post e.g. is mentioned in the List of Southern African Succulent Plants (1997), but not in the Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants (2002).
Well, whether a succulent or not, it is an interesting tuberous geophyte ( a plant that has its regenerating buds below soil-level, often with big underground storage organs and short-lived growth above ground).
The leaves are undivided or divided into 3 leaflets.
In September-October the plants are decorated with white to pale yellow flowers about 1.7 cm across – up to 17 in each inflorescence.
The plants are widespread in the winter rainfall area of the western Karoo, southwards to Karoopoort and Matjiesfontein, usually on low shale ridges in direct sunlight and often in large numbers.
In the preceding post I mentioned the persisting inflorescences that are so characteristic of this species. When you look back at that post you will notice that even young plants produce them.
One cannot help but wonder what purpose these outgrowths serve apart from the obvious one: supporting the flowers and fruits (which could be done with a far less complicated and heavy structure). We have to bear in mind that these plants live in difficult circumstances and cannot afford unnecessary extravagances. In other words, there must be a proper return on investment and the best return would be one that helps the plants to survive.
To my mind, the persisting inflorescence has three functions:
— It keeps browsing predators away.
— It helps shade the plant and thereby lower the temperature.
— The intricate structure of branches diminishes the speed of the usually hot and desiccating wind.
It is interesting that these functions have their strongest influence at the place where they are most helpful: the growing tips of the stems, with their soft and tender young leaves.
More pictures to follow.
With its thick stems and a height of up to 1 meter, this species is one of the giants among the succulent Pelargoniums. Only P. carnosum is occasionally taller (up to 1.2 m). The species is characterized by its large, much branched inflorescences which become hard and spine-like and will persist for at least a year. The flowers appear from March to November.
The plants occur sporadically from southern Namibia to the western Great Karoo and the Little Karoo on dry, hot flats and slopes, often in crevices of rocky outcrops.
“This species has little horticultural appeal, always looking as if it were more than half dead.”
How about that for a recommendation? It comes from “Pelargoniums of Southern Africa” vol. 3. and yes, if you have space for just one more Pelargonium in your collection, this will not be high on your wants list.
But if you are in the field somewhere between January and April, when very little else is flowering, the white, pale yellow or pink flowers sticking out from a shrub, are a welcome sight.
The plants are shrublets of up to 40 cm tall. with thin, slightly woody stems and parsley-like, somewhat succulent leaves. The species is widely distributed from the vicinity of Kleinzee in Namaqualand to Oudtshoorn in the eastern Little Karoo. This is part of the winter rainfall area, with very hot summers and cool, but mainly frost free winters. Without flowers the plants are difficult to find, as they are always growing within other shrubs.