Conophytum herreanthus

This species was first discovered at Umdaus around 1925 by the Rhenish missionary Gottlieb Meyer and subsequently described by Gustav Schwantes as Herreanthus meyeri. This new monotypic genus was created for it because the leaves are fused at the base for just a small proportion of their length; all the other species currently known as Conophytum have leaves fused for at least half their length. However, flowers and seed capsules fit Conophytum and it was transferred to that genus in 1993 along with the specific name change.

Fig.1 Conophytum herreanthus subsp. herreanthus from Umdaus

Fig.1 Conophytum herreanthus subsp. herreanthus from Umdaus

One is unlikely to find the locality Umdaus on maps but it is about 30km NNW of Steinkopf (Northern Cape Province of South Africa). The population at Umdaus, now regarded as the subspecies C. herreanthus subsp. herreanthus, is probably extinct due to poaching, so we need to maintain the stock we have in our greenhouses. About 30km NW of Umdaus in the Klipbok area, there are thriving populations of a slightly different form that has been given the name of C. herreanthus subsp. rex. A new disjunct population with even larger well-spotted leaves has recently been discovered further west.

The leaves on this species are quite large, to 6cm long, and have points at the apices. Colour is a pale silvery-green on the typical species and slightly greener, usually with pinkish margins, on subsp. rex. It is one of the last Conophytum species to flower in the autumn, usually October in my collection. Flower colour is white or pale pink on the Umdaus plants, usually a richer pink on subsp. rex.

Conophytum herreanthus subsp. rex from 5km S of Little Hellskloof

Fig. 2 Conophytum herreanthus subsp. rex from 5km S of Little Hellskloof

Cultivation is easy under the usual conophytum conditions, using a very gritty compost and watering from late July until early April. It can be kept dry and lightly shaded over summer while the old leaves dry up to leave the new ones exposed. This species is fairly slow to build up big clumps, which is why judges tend to regard it highly in shows. Fortunately it is not one of the species on the Chinese wants lists, so young plants and seeds are still available at sensible prices. Cuttings taken in early autumn root easily but, because of its slowness to cluster, it is usually raised from seed. Year old seedlings are rounded like other conophytums and develop the long divided leaves as they get older.

Terry Smale

No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS & the Author 2019

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