Back from Madagascar

Two days ago I returned from Madagascar. The return flight was rather annoying, as the airline had decided to cancel part of the original schedule. But as they say: all is well that ends well.
Our stay on the Big Island was great: beautiful scenery, lovely people, good food. Oh yes, you’re right, I went there to see succulent plants!  Well, in that respect the trip proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. I knew beforehand that the northern part of the country (North of Antananarivo) does not harbour as many succulent plant species as the south and southwest. Unfortunately that proved to be rather an understatement. The number of species I came across was very limited, to put it mildly. On the other hand the area has a number of very interesting and beautiful endemics.
The last two days we spent south of the capital and that tipped the balance to the positive side.
All in all we loved being in the country again and we are now contemplating a new trip there pretty soon, this time to the more arid parts.

The following pictures will give you some idea of the things we saw.

Rice fields in the Ankarafantsika Nat. Park

A typical example of the building style in the central highlands

Between Antanarivo and Maevatanana

One of the more interesting areas for succulents: Montagne des Francais near Diego Suarez

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Pachypodium rutenbergianum

Adansonia madagascariensis accompanied by Pach. rutenbegianum on sandy coastal plain near Diego Suarez

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Adansonia suarezensis near Diego Suarez

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Pachypodium brevicaule at Mt. Ibity near Antsirabe

Madagascar, Here I Come

At the moment this post is published, I will be on my way to Madagascar.
Many years after my first visit there (1997), a return visit became more and more alluring (making hay while the sun shines and all that).
While on the previous occasion my wife and I visited the South, this time we will go in the opposite direction and I’m quite curious to find out what goodies are waiting there to be photographed.
At the end of the month I hope to be back safe and sound, and with many good memories.

Conophytum meyeri (part 1 of 2)

When a species has many synoniems (16 in this case), one cannot help but wonder what that means. There may be a couple of reasons for the plethora of names, but in this case the most likely one is the species being so highly variable. Understandably, this makes it often difficult to positively identify it. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the species often grows together with C. bilobum and hybridizes with it, resulting in swarms of plants with intermediate characters.

The plants form small or large cushions (up to 30 cm in diameter), which may be straggly or neatly domed.
The bodies are up to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm in diameter, heart-shaped to nearly spherical, usually slightly bilobed and sometimes slightly keeled. The keel lines are often red, the fissure zone has small, windowed patches on either side and the skin is pale green to yellowish green or greyish green, smooth or velvety-papillate and often spotted.
As a rule the flowers are yellow (rarely pure white), with petals often drooping. They appear in March -June.

The plants occur mostly in the western Richtersveld on granite, gneiss, sandstone or quartz slopes -often in shade.

All 3 pictures taken 6 Oct. 2011.

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Cephalophyllum tricolorum

I suppose that few people will get excited about a Cephalophyllum without flowers, but when flowers are present, it is quite  a different story. In this case, the flowers are up to 5 cm in diameter, with yellow petals and orange stamens with brownish to purple tips. They appear from June through September.
The plants are to a meter in diameter and have a very compact centre and creeping branches. The leaves are rather long (8-12 cm) and round with trigonous tips; dark green to greyish.
The fruits have stalks that don’t last very long and are classified as tumble fruits.

The species occurs in dry fynbos and low open karroid bush on sandy to loamy soils from the Knersvlakte to Nieuwoudtville and Clanwilliam. Most of the rainfall occurs in winter (100-200 mm per year).
Because the plants can quickly colonize a site, it can be a very useful species, but unfortunately it is reluctant to flower in cultivation.

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