Friday, June 28, 2013

Conophytum frutescens

Conophytum frutescens (MRO31, 9 km S. of Komaggas)
Conophytum frutescens is something of a misfit. In a genus known for compact and sometimes even largely subterranean growth, it produces stems with internodes up to several centimeters long; old plants of C. frutescens develop reliably into little shrubs. Most conophytums have autumn flowers, but C. frutescens is in full bloom at the summer solstice. The orange mid-day flowers are also quite unusual: similar coloration only otherwise occurs in conophytums with nocturnal blooms, or in hybrids between species with violet petals and species with yellow petals.

Conophytum frutescens is endemic to the quartzite hills around Komaggas, an isolated town in central Namaqualand in South Africa's Northern Cape Province. Komaggas is just on the eastern edge of the coastal plain and seems to support a fairly lush vegetation, relative to surrounding areas at least. In addition to supporting the tallest Conophytum, the geophytes of Komaggas seem to grow to unusual size. I've found populations of Massonia depressa there with twin leaves, flat to the ground, as big as dinner plates. The area is also home to a form of Eriospermum aphyllum, a tuber with photosynthetic stems branched like an old rooftop TV antenna, that is two or three times the size of the plants seen anywhere else.


Julie said...

I'm ready to move to South Africa's Northern Cape Province!!!!! lol.

Matt said...

Me too! Or at least to visit.