These peculiar and very distinctive plants form little clumps of soft and velvety-hairy* leaf-bodies which are about 4 cm tall and 3 cm in diameter.
During the long resting period, the bodies are completely enclosed in the dry sheath-like remains of the previous pairs of leaves.
Because the leaves are completely united, the flowers have to rupture the tops of the bodies in order to emerge. They are about 2 cm in diameter, white to mauve and appear from November to Januari.
The plants are locally abundant on quartz outcrops, but are known from only one location (west of Barrydale in the western Little Karoo), in a highly saline area. They grow together with G. album -see first picture- and sometimes hybridise.
In his book Flowering stones and Midday flowers, Gustav Schwantes dedicates nearly 3 pages to this species and he is clearly highly impressed by it, as witnessed by the following remarks:
“The plant exhibits the highest expression of leaf succulence in the whole plant kingdom.
There is nothing of greater interest among the Mesembryanthemaceae than this living creature which is so unusual in shape and structure”.
*the hairs are among the longest in the family.
One does not have to be a linguist to surmise that meloformis means shaped like a melon. Judging from the old synoniems pomiformis and pyriformis, the plants may also resemble an apple resp. a pear.
Usually the stems are single, more or less ball-shaped, to 10 cm tall and in diameter, with mostly 8 ribs and a depressed top.
The plants occur on gravelly flats in the Eastern Cape Province, mainly in and around Grahamstown, Uitenhage and the Coega area.
In ssp. valida (Euph. valida), the stem may become over 30 cm tall and 12.5 cm thick, with a rounded top and harder and more persistent peduncles.
Mature plants of this species usually have a globose caudex to 10 cm tall and to 9 cm in diameter. The branches are about a cm thick and normally about 1.8 cm long.
The species is very rare and only occurs between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. It was described in 1999, but nowadays the consensus seems to be that it should be incorporated in E. decepta.
Based on genetic research, in 2013 Ronell Klopper and Gideon Smith created the genus Aloidendron to accommodate 6 species of tree aloes, including Aloe dichotoma.
The plants form trees with a rounded crown, with stems to 1 m in diameter at the base and usually 3-4 m tall (sometimes up to 9 m).
The bark on the trunk peels lengthwise, forming large scales with hard and razor-sharp edges. The leaves are about 30 cm long and 5 cm wide at their base.
In winter (May-August), the flowers appear; they are pollinated by starlings, sunbirds, weaver birds and white-eyes.
From the Brandberg Massif in Namibia to Upington, Kenhardt and the Nieuwoudtville area in South Africa, the species forms a conspicuous component 0f the landscape. The plants occur in open sites, usually in rocky terrain but also in flats.
Depending on the area, rainfall (between 50 and 300 mm per year) may occur in either summer or winter.
It is often rather difficult to identify Drosanthemum species, but in this case the name is a useful pointer (curtophyllum = with shortened leaves).
The plants are shrublets 10-30 cm tall, with branches that are mostly erect, rooting when growing in sand.
The leaves are not just short, but also comparatively fat: 3-5 mm long and 2-4 mm wide.
In September-October the flowers appear; they have white, pale pink or bicoloured petals up to 7 mm long.
The plants occur from the coastal belt in the Namibian Sperrgebiet to Nuwerus in Namaqualand, mostly in sand or gravel, but also in granite.
Described in 1989, this is still a species that is little known about.
It is only found in sand between rocks in the salt spray zone of South Africa’s northwest coast (near Port Nolloth).
The leaves are trigonous*, placed in four rows (=tetrastichum) and often with a black cover, probably caused by a fungus.
As the flowering time is not mentioned in the literature, it may be of interest to know that the photos below were made in late August and early September.
* trigonous = three-angled in cross-section