Anacampseros retusa

Avonia was separated from Anacampseros by Rowley in 1994, but the divorce has not lasted for very long. DNA evidence provided the basis for not only reuniting the two genera but for putting them in a new family the Anacampserotaceae as a split from Portulacaceae (2010). However Avonia and Anacampseros are readily recognisable as subgenera because Avonia has flowers with very short stems, (they are long on Anacampseros), and has tiny leaves usually covered by scales, (larger obvious leaves not covered by scales in Anacampseros).

The typical Anacampseros retusa grows over a wide area of the Western and Northern Cape Provinces of South Africa and it has rosettes of dark green or purplish glabrous retuse leaves; there are hairs and bristles in the axils but they are not particularly obvious. In the middle of the Knersvlakte on quartz-strewn planes near Groot Graafwater can be found the very different-looking subspecies lanuginosa that is the subject of this note. These plants produce very long hairs that completely obscure the plant bodies, but it can be seen in the habitat photo that, in the wild, the hairs become matted together. This photo was taken on a field trip with Steven Hammer in 1988 but it was not until 2003 that it acquired a name when Graham Williamson christened it in Excelsa.

0617 A lanuginosa habitat

Fig. 1 A. retusa subsp. lanuginosa in habitat.

After seeing the wild plants of subsp. lanuginosa, I subsequently raised it from fresh seed (Anacampseros seed can be fairly short-lived). However it proved to be a tricky subspecies to cultivate and was extremely susceptible to rotting off after a few years. Like most Anacampseros, it is self-fertile and I did maintain it through several generations by further seed sowing until one year it disappeared once more into the garden waste bin and I had no seeds left to hand.

0617 A lanuginosa cultivation

Fig. 2 A. retusa subsp. lanuginosa in cultivation

Growers will often rate Avonia species more highly than Anacampseros, but a number of Anacampseros are slow-growing and tricky; growing a good large plant of the easier ones is an achievement. The mini caudiciforms: A. comptonii and bayeriana are almost impossible to cultivate for any length of time.

Terry Smale

No part of this article or the accompanying pictures may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS & the Author 2017.

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