Tuesday, September 22, 2009
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.