A New Huernia

I have been looking for more stapeliads and huernias to add to my collection because of their striking flowers with their intricate designs and wonderful colors. I was finally at the right place at the right time the other day and came across this huernia zebrina de marco, also called a lifesaver flower because it looks like, well, a lifesaver.
I have written about stapeliads and huernias before, and at first tried to make this plant a stapeliad, but after some checking and double-checking and finding more than one spelling for it, I am satisfied it is a huernia zebrina de marco.

Stapeliads and huernias are closely related and were once grouped together, but are now placed each in their own genus. Both originate in Africa, mostly in the south and east. I read that the huernia segments are sometimes eaten in times of need, cooked with sorghum. I’m sure there are very scientific reasons they are classified separately, but based on my observations the main differences might be that stapeliad flowers have a hairy covering and that lovely carrion smell, and huernias have no smell and the flowers have a smooth, waxy finish.

I have read that they will rot easily if allowed to stay wet too long, so you might be careful of your watering. They are easy to propagate by twisting off one of the segments, letting it dry overnight and then planting. Coming from Africa, they will not be cold-hardy, so bring them in for the winter.
I have enjoyed watching this one bloom, and it just makes me want to add more huernias and stapeliads to my collection. I hope you can find some for your collection, too.


One Last Look at the Yuccas

In West Texas and the Hill Country, Spring does bring on wildflowers, but it also blesses us with yucca blooms. Bear grass, they call it here, but yucca is what it is. I don’t know the exact variety, and there are many, but it grows wild here, and if left to its own devices, will take a field that is not under cultivation or kept in shape for cattle pasture. And I know it is a problem in that respect, but when they bloom, they do dress up an otherwise barren landscape.

These are in the corner of the field behind us, and I always enjoy seeing them when I walk around my walk path. I didn’t wade through the grass for a closer shot of their blooms, but as you can see they are big enough to make a showing from a distance.
I dug up this yucca years ago in the San Marcos area. At the time, it was just a single small plant, and it has spread out rather than growing taller and has a wider, more pliable leaf than our native bear grass.
The blooms start out long and slender, and then open to look like this.
I bought this Thompson’s yucca in Alpine in 2003. The leaves make a nice round shape as it grows taller each year. The blooms toward the top of the cluster had just begun to open when I took this picture.
The Thompson yucca blooms are whiter than the San Marcos yucca.
This yucca was actually a hitchhiker in a pot of sotol that I planted years ago. The sotol, unfortunately, has passed on, but the yucca has done well.
Its blooms are considerably different to the other yuccas in shape and color, with their ball shape and the hint of pink on them.
Two weeks ago I traveled to the Hill Country and their yuccas were also in bloom. The much larger wild yuccas commonly called Spanish bayonet or Spanish dagger-I’ve heard both names-had already bloomed in the early Spring and were done. I passed these smaller, more widespread yuccas, on the way from Llano to Mason, and they were so outstanding I had no choice but to come to a screeching halt, go back, and trespass into this pasture for some pictures. Not much traffic on that highway, thank goodness, so I didn’t cause a wreck with my spur of the minute decision to pull over and make a U-turn.
These were especially nice and made quite a statement in the pasture.
So, bear grass, weed, or whatever, if you have yuccas, go ahead and enjoy their beauty later in the season when the bluebonnets have gone away.

Another Reason I Like Cactus

As I mentioned on Facebook the other day, the cactus blooming season is upon us. All of the pictures I am about to share with you were taken on the same day, April 29th. I found one lovely surprise after another as I walked through my outdoor cactus garden. And the rainbow cactus, the echinocereus rigidissimus, which are probably the ones I have the most of, and whose blooms come in myriad forms but always have outstanding pink flowers, haven’t even hit their stride yet. It‘s a treasure hunt, discovering one prize after another. Look at what I found during just one day.

Cactus from Wyoming. Most of the Wyoming cactus bloomed earlier, but several surprised me with flowers now.

The bombax tree, which actually had at one time six flowers blooming at once. Large leaves will follow.

The blue bonnets always look pretty with the first echinocereus ridigissimus, rainbow cactus, adding pink to the mix.

Those echinocereus rainbows up close.

This hardy delosperma is one of the first plants to begin blooming.

This smaller hedgehog claret cup came from the area around Lake LBJ at Kingsland and has doubled in size since I brought it home. And by the way, it bothers me not one bit to rescue wild cactus which are destined to be bulldozed in the name of progress for some ticky-tacky residential development. And I have owner permission to dig them up.
I hope you can see the unbelievable number of buds on this small-pad prickly pear which I have yet to identify and alas, can’t remember where it came from. In a few days it will be a mass of yellow flowers and have honey bees working feverishly to collect pollen and nectar from them.
The cholla is heavy with buds, but the red hedgehogs, echinocereus triglochidiatus, steal the show here. Chollas are in the opunita family, which means they are related to prickly pear, even though at first glance they look nothing alike.
And speaking of prickly pear, this one bloomed also.
This big hedgehog came from the Fort Stockton area and is a much bigger plant that the others, which were given to me by someone who didn’t want them. I am not sure where they came from, but they are pretty, too. But I marvel at the size of the stems on the Fort Stockton plants.
This horse crippler, echinocactus texensis, came from the JD Cage ranch east of Muleshoe and is huge for this kind of cactus. The picture doesn’t really show just how large it is; it measures 9 inches across. The little wild daisies came home with it when I dug it up, and I like the way they look dotted around the cactus. I have several different varieties of horse cripplers, each one with different variations in their spines and flowers.
This hardy delosperma turns reddish-purple during the cold months, then greens up and blooms yellow when it warms up. Unlike other delospermas, which are what we usually call ice plants, this one blooms in spring and then is done blooming for the rest of the year.
And I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Cactus are such forgiving plants as far as their growing conditions are concerned, and then they reward the viewer with beauty like this.

I think I’ll go see what is blooming today.

Cotyledon Orbiculata Has Unique Flowes

Aren’t these just the neatest little flowers?


The plant, as you can see, is not anything special, but it also is not ugly. The flowers, on the other hand, are delightful and unusual. The blooms measure only a little more than an inch in length, but they are still impressive.
While there are many varieties of cotyledons, c. orbiculata doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as some others, so it might take a trip to a cactus and succulent nursery to find one. But look closely, read the identification tag, and you might hit pay dirt.
The plant has to mature before it blooms, but it is worth the wait when these little bell-shaped flowers appear. You will be glad you added this species to your collection.

More Fat Plants

As promised, the other fat plant, pachypodium baronii, that was due to bloom, did, and this is what it looks like. Similar to the pachypodium lealii saundersii, but a whiter flower and some difference in the spines. And you can see the thick body that qualifies it as a fat plant.

Another fat plant is the adenium, also called a desert rose. This slender-leafed variety is from Somalia and hasn’t bloomed for me yet. 
But you can see its fat trunk where all fat plants hold water for times of drought.
Most other adeniums have rounder leaves but still have the fat caudex.

The caudex of this adenium obesum is sitting higher in its pot and has some of its roots exposed, which is often done with adeniums to add interest. And this is what its bloom looks like.
Another fat plant is the ponytail palm, beaucarnea recurvata, which can grow very large and live a long time. Mine are not that big yet. They are fun to watch grow and fill out, but you might want to put them out of the reach of your cat. My cats seem to think the tips of grass-like fronds taste pretty good and can wreak havoc with the looks of the plant.
Another form of fat plants are pachycaul trees that have the caudex for water and nutrition storage and few branches and can get really big, like, well, trees. My bombax elliopitcum, aka pseudobombax ellipticum, is about 25 years old and has bloomed several times in the spring before putting on new leaves for the summer. And it is as big as a small tree!

There is one more group of fat plants I want to tell you about, but I think I’ll save that for the next blog. Stay tuned.

Pachypodium Lealii Saundersii

The most easily recognized pachypodium is probably pachypodium lamerii or p. geayi  the so-called Madagascar palm; this is not that pachypodium! Madagascar palms are from Madagascar; this pachypodium is from South Africa, but has the necessary fat body pachypodiums are know for. These plants grow more like a bush and so far, at least, mine is not as big or tall as the palms and has bloomed fairly regularly, which the palms so far have not.
Pachypodiums are caudiciforms, a category commonly known as fat plants, because they do have a fat body where they store water. The body is technically a stem, but I have seen it referred to as a fat trunk, and that is what it looks like. I didn’t take a picture of this one’s fat trunk because I really couldn’t get a good shot of it. But I have another one, p. baronii, that is on the verge of blooming, and its caudex-the fat body-is easier to see. So stay tuned.

But for now, enjoy this flowers on this one.


I Catch The Lithops Blooming


When these mysterious little plants, lithops lesliei, bloom, it is always such a pleasant surprise. And easy to miss since they open in the evening when I may not be checking on them any more for the day. But I was in the right place at the right time and wanted to share them.

This happens to be one of my favorite dish gardens even without the flowers. The pony tail palm, beaucarnea recurvate, is the centerpiece, but the little horned lizard, or horny toad, to use Texas vernacular, next to the cool rock with the hole in it all work together well. It is a pretty simple arrangement, but I like the combination. The fact that these flowers actually bloom for a few days rather than just one is a nice plus, too. They open in the early evening, close at night, and reopen next evening. So far these have reopened going on four days.

Lithops can be tricky to keep alive and you can search the Internet for all kinds of detailed tips on watering schedules, but these particular ones are still alive, I suspect, because I just sort of forget about them, water the pony tail, make sure the pot gets good sunlight, and then enjoy the fact that they are still with me. After blooming in the fall and winter, they need light watering, taper off to little if any water in the late winter till spring, and then water more in the hot summer.

On the other hand, keeping them alive and well could be as scientific and precise as my mother used to say about making good meringue; you just have to hold your mouth right.