Aloe brevifolia var. depressa (part 1 of 2)

For many years, I have known A. brevifolia to be one of South Africa’s smallest Aloes. It is common in cultivation, but up to last month, I had never seen a plant in the wild. So, when someone gave me directions to a locality he had visited a few days before, I did not wait long to go there, especially because it was in the middle of the flowering season.
It was easy to drive up to a place from where I could see the plants growing on a steep slope. But between the car and the slope, there was a little stream and a lot of dead and live shrubs, so it took a lot of time and effort to come near enough to the plants to get some useful pictures. When I saw them from nearby, I was most surprised by their size, as they were over 3 times bigger than the biggest A. brevifolia I had ever seen before.

On digging into the literature, I found the following information:
Aloe brevifolia has 3 varieties: brevifolia, postgenita and depressa.
Var. brevifolia forms dense colonies of small rosettes. These are about 8 cm in diameter, with 30-40 leaves up to 6 cm long and 2 cm wide. This is by far the most common form in cultivation.
Var. depressa has open rosettes up to 30 cm in diameter; solitary or up to 3. The leaves number about 60, 12-15 cm long x 6 cm wide.
Var. postgenita is intermediate between the two others.
In all three, the inflorescence is about 60 cm tall, with 4 cm long flowers in shades of red  (sometimes yellow). Flowering time is October to December.

The species as a whole, occurs in the Western Cape, from Caledon to Cape Agulhas. Var. depressa seems to be known only from the site referred to above.

 

Drosanthemum lique

Plants of this species often occur in great quantities as pioneers in disturbed soil (see first picture). They occur throughout the Little Karoo to the Eastern Cape, form robust shrubs up to 1 m tall and are often heavily browsed.
The reddish-brown branches become rough with age and are characteristic for the species; they bear cylindrical leaves up to 1.1 cm long.
The flowers are pink-purple to dark purple and about 2.2 cm in diameter, appearing in spring and summer (Oct. – Feb.).

Pictures taken 3 December 2017.


Drosanthemum diversifolium

This species has a number of uncommon features, making it easy to recognise – once you know what to look for.
It is a small shrub up to 15 cm tall of which the short shoots are decked out with small spine-like projections and it has boat-shaped leaves to 1 cm long and 0.5 cm wide (those on upper shoots are more or less round). The leaves are covered with papillae which are more or less cobblestone-shaped, but much longer on the edges.
The flowers are solitary, pinkish-purple to almost white and to about 3 cm in diameter; they appear in July-September and are followed by fruits with 6 (instead of the usual 5) compartments.

The plants occur in deep soil usually covered with quartz pebbles, from Namaqualand to Clanwilliam.

 

Euphorbia multiceps (part 1 of 2)

Among all the various growth forms in the genus Euphorbia, the design of this species stands out as something singular.
The plants consist of a thick main stem covered with numerous branches up to 8 cm long, decreasing in length towards the top of the plant.
In this way, a compact cone is formed up to 60 cm tall and to 25 cm across at base. In some cases however, the plants are not shaped quite so neatly, resulting in a far less appealing and peculiar habit of growth (see pictures).
The spines are in fact sterile flower stalks; they are 0.8 to 7 cm long and arise from both main stem and branches.
The species occurs on stony slopes and flats from Steinkopf in Namaqualand to the western Little Karoo.

Monilaria moniliformis (part 1 of 2)

Once you know that monile is the Latin word for a string of pearls and monilaria means a collection of strings of pearl, this repetitive tongue twister of a name may begin to make more sense.
But let’s forget about the name and look at the plants themselves.

The branches consist of flattish, rounded segments and may become up to 20 cm tall.
The flowers are to 4.5 cm in diameter, usually white (sometimes with a yellow tinge), with white, orange or purple filaments*.
They have a long stalk (to 10 cm tall), appear in July-August and are highly scented.
As a rule the plants grow fully exposed in loamy soil on quartz patches in the southernmost part of the Knersvlakte.
According to “MESEMBS OF THE WORLD”,  Monilaria plants are very long-lived, possibly centuries.

* the thread-like part of the stamen

All pictures shown here were taken late July 2017.

 

Ornithogalum juncifolium

In contrast to Ornithogalum sardienii, this species is widespread on dry rocky places, from Caledon and the Little Karoo to the eastern part of southern Africa. It was first described in 1797, but in the period between 1843 and 1945 it got no less than 16 new names. To make this even stranger, only 6 botanists were responsible for this.

The plants form clusters of above-ground bulbs to 4cm in diameter and tall, with pale to grey-brown, leathery outer tunics.
The leaves are more or less erect, often present when flowering, 10-20 cm long and only 2-3 mm wide, usually strongly ribbed.
The inflorescences are up to 40 cm long, with up to 15 flowers (white with darker keels); they appear from November to March.

 

Hallianthus planus

Plants of this species are found from the Richtersveld to the Vanrhynsdorp area; they grow in crevices and small pans on rocky outcrops or steps of granite, sandstone or quartz. These specialised habitats retain more moisture than their surroundings: rather important in an area with usually less than 100 mm rain per year.

They form low shrublets with a central head and trailing branches which do not root at the nodes.
The leaves are three-sided, often laterally compressed, brown to dark green.
In June-July the flowers appear with 3-5 together (rarely solitary);  they are up to 3.5 cm in diameter with white, purple or bicoloured petals and filamentous staminodes gathered in a central cone.
The fruits have 7-12 (usually 10) compartments, with the top higher than the basal part.