In the wild, this taxon is rare and endangered by both habitat degradation (as a result of overgrazing) and harvesting (for medicinal purposes).
Plants are found in the Little Karoo from Montagu to near Uniondale and in the southern Great Karoo from Matjiesfontein to Gamkapoort and Klaarstroom; they usually grow inside bushes.
The plants have few to many stems (3-6 cm in diameter) and form shrubs up to 80 cm tall and 2 meter across.
Flowers mainly appear in the upper part of the stem and have a nasty smell; they are 1.6-2 cm across and pinkish brown to very dark purplish brown, with a raised annulus.
My good friend George Hattingh of Calitzdorp, with whom I have spent many wonderful hours in the field, has kindly given me permission to make use of his pictures as and when needed, for which I am very grateful.
This variety does not become taller than 10-30 cm when in flower and usually has many rosettes.
The leaves are apparently arranged in 2 rows, 0.5-1.5 (-2.5) cm long and (0.5-) 0.8-3 cm wide, densely hairy to smooth and with longer hairs at the margins. Even when flowering, the leaves stay close together.
Found from southern Namibia, Bushmanland and Namaqualand to near Laingsburg, usually in rock crevices or under overhanging rocks.
The first two pictures show plants in the resting period, the other two are of plants in active growth.
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.