Monday, February 6, 2012

botanical valentines: cheiridopsis

Cheiridopsis pillansii 
McMillan Greenhouse, UNC Charlotte, 2010

This valentine comes from South Africa where it grows in the arid, pebbly soil around Steinkopf, the northwestern corner of the country.  Dormant during the heat of summer, winter rains bring about active growth and cause the plant to bloom.

In the photo above, you can see that each "heart" is composed of two lobes that appear fused (though they're not).  Each lobe is a chubby, fluid-filled leaf!  The leaves are attached to very short stems, so short you can't see any evidence of them here.  As a bud begins to enlarge down inside the heart, the leaves separate at the cleft, and new leaves or flowers burst forth.  C. pillansii in bloom (photo).

Cheiridopsis is now in the Aizoaceae family, but is still often grouped with Mesembs  (Mesembryanthemaceae).  For inspiration -- either for your xeriscape garden or for a spectacular trip -- check out this photo:  The Namaqualand desert blooming with Mesembs  (Cheiridopsis is hardy to around 21F degrees.)

Succulent lovers might like to check out this detailed article with all sorts of particulars about the many genera of Mesembs:  Mastering the Art of Growing Mesembs