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.
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”.
Described in 1989, this is still a species that is little known about.
It is only found in sand between rocks in the salt spray zone of South Africa’s northwest coast (near Port Nolloth).
The leaves are trigonous*, placed in four rows (=tetrastichum) and often with a black cover, probably caused by a fungus.
As the flowering time is not mentioned in the literature, it may be of interest to know that the photos below were made in late August and early September.
* trigonous = three-angled in cross-section
The specific name echinatus means prickly or armed with spines or prickles and is derived from the word echinus (hedgehog).
When you look at the recurved thorny stipules on the stems, it is easy to see where the name comes from.
The plants may be up to 60 cm tall, but are usually much smaller; they have few to many branches, with leaves 2-3 cm long and 3-4 cm broad on relatively long stalks.
The flowers are about 3 cm in diameter and appear from July to November in groups of 3-8. They vary in colour from white and pink to brilliant purple, with darker blotches.
This beautiful and interesting species occurs from the Richtersveld to Clanwilliam,
usually on dry granite or sandstone slopes and protected by bushes or overhanging rocks.
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.
Compared to ssp. corallina, these plants look more sturdy, with leaves 4-5 mm long and wide. The leaves are also much whiter.
Another difference is that they have a tuberous main root up to 1.2 cm wide (macrorrhiza= with a big root).
This subspecies has a generally more northern distribution, from the Grunau-Warmbad area in Namibia to adjacent parts in South Africa, from Vioolsdrift to Kenhardt, usually on coarse sandy flats.
The flowers appear from October to January.
As the first picture shows, these up to 2m tall, dense clumps are very conspicuous in the field.
The branches are yellowish-green to grey-green, usually up to 3 cm thick at the base and 1.2 cm in diameter above, with leaves that soon disappear.
Between July to September one can find the plants in flower.
The plants occur mainly in flat open gravelly or sandy plains, sometimes on low stony slopes. They are widely distributed from the Haalenberg east of Luederitz in Namibia to Kamieskroon in Namaqualand and Namies in Bushmanland.