Friday, 30 September 2011

Stapelia grandiflora

Five years ago some friends gave us a small tray of cacti and other succulents. I suppose there were five or six small plants in the tray, one of which was about the size of my thumb.

I had no idea what any of the plants were, let alone the thumb-sized one, as I had never investigated the world of succulents. Somehow, however, these plants spurred my interest and I gradually obtained more and more such plants, so that now the collection includes some two hundred cacti and about a hundred other succulents.

But what about the original contents of the tray?

Well, the plants are still alive and growing. Some have remained remarkably small, others have grown at what might be considered a more "normal" rate. But one has really done its very best and beaten all records: it is a Stapelia grandeflora. Two years ago, in early October 2009, it developed its first large flowers and I took a series of photos of one of these flowers opening over the course of a few hours (the photos can be seen here). Growth has continued at an almost frightening rate, despite the fact that I occasionally cut a piece of the plant off to give to other people.

Today I have had to move the plant higher, as its falling fronds had reached the ground and its now many flowers were desperately searching for a display position: the plant now sports a drop of almost a metre! The older parts of the plant are literally white with age, yet even now new shoots are appearing from the centre, and there is even a flower-bud looking expectantly from that same area.

As for other flowers, well, there is a whole host of them, mostly at the extremities of the longest branches. I have counted no less than seventeen, either in full bloom, in bud, or already drying up. And there are plenty of new shoots, too, promising a good year to come for the Stapelia grandiflora.

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