Stapeliads (Apocynaceae / Asclepiadaceae) Display

The Stapeliads form part of the Apocynaceae family (Endress & Bruyns, 2000) they were formerly part of the Asclepiadaceae family. There are about 330 species distributed throughout the old world countries. Most Stapeliads are easy to grow and make good collectors items. They are often called the “orchids of the succulent world”, there is an immense diversity in flowers, colour, size and shape. The flowers are usually accompanied by a foetid or evil smell (hence the common name “Carrion flowers”) although some have a sweet honey smell. There is also diversity in plant shapes and sizes. P. Bruyns (2005) did a revision on the Stapeliads of Southern Africa and Madagascar.

Australluma

This genus was erected by Plowes 1995 for the previously known Caralluma peschii and in 2005 Bruyns moved Orbea ubomboensis to the genus Australluma. The genus now consists of two species that are restricted to South Africa and Namibia. The distribution of the two species is very disjunctive, with A. peschii only found in Namibia and A. ubomboensis restricted to Mozambique and the eastern parts of South Africa. The plants usually have small flowers they are clump forming and tend to be rhizomatous.

Ballyanthus

This monotypic genus was described by Bruyns in 2000 for the former Orbea prognatha. B. prognathus is indigenous to Somalia.

Duvalia

The genus Duvalia consists of about 17 species which are distributed from the Western Cape Province northwards throughout South Africa and in a narrow band across Arabia. The plants are mat forming. D. polita is a variable and widespread species distributed from South Africa to Zambia and Malawi and spreads by means of rhizomes. The flowers are usually small with lobes that are folded back. D. corderoyi from South Africa and D. sulcata from Arabia has larger flowers.

Echidnopsis

This genus was described by Hooker in the late 1800’s. The genus is distributed from East Africa in Tanzania northwards to Oman, Socotra and Yemen. The stems are mostly cylindrical and may be mat forming to clustering of habit. The flowers are variable and usually borne closely along the stems. Echidnopsis now includes the species previously known as Pseudopectinaria malum and consists roughly of about 30 species.

Frerea

Also known as Caralluma frerei, this interesting monotypic genus is native to India and is the only true leaf bearing Stapeliad, whereas those of other genera are rudimentary. The plants forms small branched clumps of ascending stems with deciduous leaves.

Hoodia

Hoodia a small genus with species in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola.

Huernia

The genus Huernia was described in 1810 by R. Brown who named it after Justus Heurnius. Huernia is one of the larger groups of Stapeliads which is widely distributed throughout South Africa and northwards to the Arabian Peninsula. The plants are usually clump forming with angular stems, with a few exceptions like H. pendula which has cylindrical pendulous stems. The flowers are diverse in size, shape and colour. Many are brightly coloured and some have a raised succulent ring around the mouth of the flowers, other are dull coloured with campanulate flowers, with or without papillae.

Notechidnopsis

This genus was erected by Lavranos and Bleck for two species namely N. columnaris (now Richtersveldia columnaris) and N. tessellata. These two species used to belong to the genus Echidnopsis and the plants and flowers are very similar in appearance. Notechidnopsis is now a monotypic genus, N. tessellata and is restricted to the Western and Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Ophionella

Ophionella is a small genus with only two species from the Eastern Cape Province.

Orbea

This large genus of Stapeliads has the most interesting and attractive diversity among the species. This genus is distributed from the Cape Peninsula northwards in to the rest of Africa and along the Arabian Peninsula. Orbea now include many genera previously known as Angolluma, Orbeanthus, Orbeopsis, and Pachycymbium etc. The stems are usually very attractive and often have pronounced tubercles and many have attractive markings on the stems when exposed to bright light conditions, the plants are usually mat forming and spread by means of rhizomes and creeping stems. The flowers are variable in size, colour and shape and are mostly very attractive with some emitting the foulest of all odours.

Pectinaria

This genus which was described by Haworth now contains three species with several subspecies in P. articulata. Pectinaria is found in the western parts of South Africa. The plants are mat forming with interesting flowers, in P. articulata the lobes are joined at their tips and appears to be cut of with an knife (especially in the subspecies articulata). In P. maughnii and P. longipes the flowers are also small but with spreading lobes. The latter two species were classified as species of Vadulia until the recent revision by Bruyns.

Piaranthus

Piaranthus is a very attractive small genus that is extremely variable. The genus occurs mainly in South Africa except for the species that were previously known as Huerniopsis atrosanguineus and H. decipiens (which was transferred to Piaranthus in 1999 by Bruyns). These two are also found in Namibia and Botswana.

Quaqua

Quaqua is a small genus restricted to South Africa and Namibia. The species of this genus was formerly known under Caralluma. Quaqua species are hard to find and somewhat difficult to grow.

Stapelia

Stapelia was the first genus of the Stapeliads to be described. In 1737 Linnaeus described Stapelia hirsuta and S. variegata (now Orbea variegata). There are about 29 species of which the majority is found in Southern Africa, S. gigantea with a wider distribution towards Zambia and Malawi. S. gigantea has the largest flowers of all the Stapeliads with flowers that can measure up to 40 cm in diameter, in other species the flowers may be small measuring only a centimeter. The flowers are variable in colour and shape. The stems are usually four angled and erect, forming clumps or mats

Stapelianthus

This genus is endemic to Madagascar and is the only genus of Stapeliads originating from the island, the flowers are usually small and the plants form small mats in deciduous forests. There are about 7 species and many are similar in appearance to the genus Huernia. S. pilosus has hairy stems very similar in appearance to H. pillansii. In others the stems resemble fallen twigs amongst the leaf mould they grow.

Stapeliopsis

This genus is restricted to the south western parts of South Africa as well as Namibia. There are about eight species of either mat or clump forming plants with usually four angled stems. Stapeliopsis is florally interesting with S. pillansii which produces its flowers below ground level, S. saxatilis has flowers with their lobes joined at their tips, S. exasperata has spreading lobes and species like S. neronis has urn shaped flowers

Tromotriche

This variable genus contains about 10 species restricted to the south western parts of South Africa. This genus is very interesting with many types of plant forms and a very large diversity in flowers structures. Many species of the genus Tromotriche was previously known as Tridentea but were moved to Tromotriche by Bruyns in 1995.

Pseudolithos

A small genus of species rare in cultivation. The plant shape and colour in habitat looks makes them look like rocks