Inside the strange and wonderful world of succulents
revel in our weird and wonderful african plant heritage with collector and photographer Filipa domingues
‘More die from too much care and watering than from neglect,’ says Filipa of the Euphorbia caput-medusae
1 Crassula capitella This plant, native to southern africa, is commonly known as ‘Campfire’ for its explosion of red and green when it lives in full sun. If positioned in shade, it remains green year-round.
2 Euphorbia caput-medusae
‘Medusa’s head from the Cape’ aptly describes this succulent with multiple serpent-like stems arising from a thick, woody stem. They require a little pampering to become established, but once they are, they’re self-sufficient.
‘In fact, more die from too much care and watering than from neglect,’ says Filipa of these south african natives.
3 Crassula capitella subsp. thyrsiflora Filipa snips spent flowers to just before the main heads
and young shoots soon take the place of the older ones. It has an extreme tolerance to drought.
4 ‘Behold the Raphionacme
hirsuta or Khadiwortel,’ says Filipa of this prehistoric-looking plant. ‘It initially looked like a rock but slowly things started happening and now this unusual east-african beauty is in full bloom,’ she says. The tuber is traditionally harvested as a source of yeast to brew beer.
5 The fascinating Adenia spinosa is native to Zimbabwe and occurs in southern africa. a deciduous shrub with a tuber capable of reaching over 1.8 metres in width. It enjoys full sun and regular watering in summer but no water in winter.
6 Euphorbia globosa This dwarf succulent is endemic to the eastern Cape. It has a stem known as a cyathium made up of several reduced male flowers encircling the female flower. It houses numerous glands, making it a great source of food for insects. Flowering takes place in spring, and gives rise to a smooth, curved fruit capsule. seeds are wind dispersed as the fruit bursts open.
7 Euphorbia milii ‘one of my favourite prickly cacti,’ says Filipa. ‘It is covered in pretty flowers for most of the year and in spring adds a show of green leaves.’
8 Crassula orbicularis The ‘stone Crassula’ occurs along the coastal parts of the Western and eastern Cape and into Kwazulu-natal. Plants are found sheltering in the shade on rocky ledges and flowers from late winter into summer.
9 Crassula perfoliata var. Minor This is a rare Crassula and has a limited distribution in the groot Winterhoek Mountains, and Port elizabeth to umtata, occurring on rocky outcrops and inaccessible cliffs where they are well-protected.
10 Drosera capensis ‘Alba’ is covered in a sticky mucus for trapping insects. The leaves roll inwards, bringing the plant’s digestive glands in contact with the prey and within an hour tentacles on the leaf ’s surface further ensnare it. The flowers last just one day.
11 Anacampseros arachnoides native to south africa, the botanical name anacampseros is an ancient one for herbs supposed to restore lost love. The plants are self-fertile and produce seeds in a cup of upright filaments. They can reach 15cm in height and are dormant in winter. The flower pods only open when the light is bright enough.
12 Orbea variegata documented to flower in winter, this one produced a bloom in summer. ‘It seems some of them are opportunists,’ laughs Filipa, who refers to them as ‘beautiful wonders’. We agree.
13 Bergaranthus sp. ‘I love this plant,’ says Filipa of the eastern Cape gem. ‘The flowers open towards the end of the day when it’s cooling down and the plant can flower year-round.’ The genus is considered to be in need of taxonomic clarification, as species have merged and are difficult to distinguish. Filipa n Domingues @checkmyplants
‘I’m still always blown away by these freak flowers,’ says filipa domingues of her stapelia gigantea In full, noxious bloom. known globally as ‘african starfish’ flower, It’s native to southern central africa and south africa. the size and colour of the flower, combined with Its trademark rotting flesh odour, attract flies and lead to their certain death