Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anacampseros hillii

Anacampseros hillii is flowering for me right now. This plant was only described in 2008, and is hardly cultivated anywhere, so I've been trying to produce some seed to spread around. It hasn't been easy to propagate: the flowers only open for a few hours starting around 2:00-3:00 in the afternoon, and they are self incompatible (pollen from a different individual is needed to make seed). My two plants never seem to synchronize properly, though I did manage to succeed once by saving some pollen from plant A in the fridge, and applying it to plant B when it bloomed a week later. I think I managed the same trick this year; we'll see in a few weeks. Oddly, the original description (Williamson, G. 2008. Aloe 45) has the plants as being self-fertile. It may be that there is variation in the presence of incompatibility.

Anacampseros hillii is truly minute, which probably explains why it eluded detection for so long while growing on rather well-botanized quartz flats in the Knersvlakte north of the relatively major town of Vanrhynsdorp. The flowers are about 1 cm across, and the plant is normally represented above ground by just one or two tiny blackish green leaves and a nub of hairy stem. The spindle-shaped tuber underground has about the bulk of a peanut or two, sans shell.

The plant is probably related to the similarly dwarf Anacampseros comptonii, which grows fairly close by, though in quite a different habitat on cooler, wetter elevations. Anacampseros is part of the Portulacaceae (purslane family), better known for the garden annual portulaca.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hondebal in Flower

Larryleachia cf. marlothii, the Hondebal, in cultivation at the University of Connecticut, September 2009.

The Hondebal ("dog ball" in Afrikaans...) is a stem-succulent in the Apocynaceae (milkweed family) with a fairly wide distribution in the arid parts of Namibia and western South Africa. The taxonomy of the Hondebals is about as convoluted as it could be for a group with probably just two species, which have been assigned to seven different genera at various times. The name "Trichocaulon," which is how I originally learned them, is a sentimental favorite, but I think they're more properly placed in the genus Larryleachia. For now. I grew the plants in the photo from seed that was labeled at L. cactiformis, but I suspect that they are really the other species, L. marlothii, based on the pale, speckled flowers.

Hondebals can be finicky, but can also grow rapidly if they are kept happy. These plants are flowering at only about a year and a half old. I use a sandy soil with very little organic content, and keep the plants in a really dry, sunny spot right next to the Lithops. So far, Larryleachia has been doing better than many of the other stapeliads in the UConn greenhouse, possibly because the plants are relatively tolerant of winter chills.