One cannot help but wonder how these little beauties survive the cruel conditions in their homeland, a small area on both sides of the Orange river, some 10-60 km from the sea, where they grow on rocky ridges and in stabilised sandy places amid large sand dunes.
From November to May the plants are dormant and leafless and in this period they are often sand blasted by very strong winds and sometimes buried in sand drifts for weeks or even months.
Winter is the growing period, with most activity going one from June to September.
The plants have a deep, swollen root system and are up to 4 cm tall with one or a few horizontal branches; these are whitish to blackish-brown and 1-2 cm thick. The branches are spineless or have blunt remains of leaf stalks up to 0.6 cm long. Flowering may occur in most months (except Jan.- Febr. and May-June). The flowers are 2.5-3 cm across and white, pale pink or magenta with a dark red throat; rarely they are completely white.
In the wild (the dry spiny forests of western and southwestern Madagascar), one often sees these plants growing on top of shrubs and small trees.
The climbing or creeping branches are up to 5 m long; they bear few tendrils, which are branched at their tips and grey-green leaves, which are 3.5-5.5 cm long and 2.5-5 cm wide.
The inconspicuous flowers are greenish-yellow.
Of the 22 recognised species of Oscularia only two are reported to have white flowers. The “default“ colour is (light to dark) pink.
O. comptonii forms an erect shrublet to 25 cm tall, with more or less crescent-shaped, keeled leaves to 40 mm long.
The flowers are white to pale pink and up to 27 mm in diameter; they appear from August to October.
The plants occur on sandstone outcrops in and around the Olifants River Valley.
Pictures taken 23 Aug. 2016, just south of Clanwilliam.
Plants of this species form small compact cushions to 5 cm tall and 16 cm in diameter, with leaves 2.5-4.5 cm long.
The honey-scented flowers open in late afternoon and stay open for most of the night. They are magenta or white, up to 3.5 cm in diameter and appear mainly in July-August.
The plants grow in gravelly plains and rock crevices from southern Namibia to northern Namaqualand. Rainfall in this area is on average less than 100 mm per year and occurs mainly in winter.
Mesembs of the world (1998) supplies the following snippet of information: “Dracophilus plants are not very popular but are nevertheless often seen in collections”. In other words, many people do not really like them but still grow them. To me this seems to indicate that a lot of succulent growers are masochists, but maybe I’m just missing something here. I do however fully agree with another remark in the book : ”When well-grown, they can be very beautiful”.
Both the current and the old name refer to the white, bristle-like hairs covering leaves and branches in this species (hirtipes = with hairy stalks, hystrix = hedgehog).
The type plant was collected in the southern part of the distribution area, where some of the plants have almost hairless leaves. This probably explains the fact that the name hirtipes refers to the hairiness of the branches only. These branches are rather brittle and form tufts to 15 cm in diameter.
The leaves are lance- to egg-shaped, from round in cross-section to flat above and strongly convex below; they are 8-20 x 4-7 mm and usually as thick as wide.
The small tubular flowers are cream to yellow and appear from August to October.
Plants are found from Komaggas to near Vanrhynsdorp in habitats varying from gravelly slopes to loamy flats, often under rocks or bushes.