Gasteria doreeniae growing in its natural habitat at Swartwaterspoort (E. Cape).
Gasteria doreeniae is a dwarf aloe-like, succulent-leaved, cliff-dwelling plant (cliff hugger) endemic to the Swartwaterspoort of the Eastern Cape Province. It thrives in cultivation.
Dwarf succulent plant with very short stems (acaulescent); due to its proliferating from the base it grows in dense ascending clusters up to 150 mm in diameter. The roots are fleshy, up to 3 mm in diameter. Its leaves grow in two opposite rows (distichous); they are belt-shaped (lorate), 35–80 mm long and 14–25 mm in diameter at the base. The leaves are at first ascending, becoming spreading (the ends often incurved during the dry season). The leaf surface (epidermis) appears smooth, however it is minutely rough and with dark green and white spots. During a good rainy season the upper surface is plane to rounded (convex), the lower surface rounded (convex). The leaf margin is tuberculate (covered with wart-like knobs), the leaf end is blunt with a small sharp point (mucronate). The inflorescence is unbranched and 120–400 mm long. The flower stalk (pedicel) is 3–4 mm long and pink. The flower is tubular, 15–17 mm long, belly-shaped (gasteriform) and 6–8 mm wide at its widest point, pink, with the upper third pale pink to almost white with green stripes. After fertilization the flower stalk (pedicel) becomes stiff and erect. The fruiting capsule is 18 mm long, the seeds 3–4×2–3 mm, black.
||Gasteria doreeniae flowers.
Growing in habitat on a south-facing cliff, Swartwaterspoort.
Gasteria doreeniae is one of 7 Gasteria species growing on cliffs. It is related to G. baylissiana which has a rough tuberculate leaf surface.
Although only known from Swartwaterspoort in the Eastern Cape, it is well protected by its inaccessible habitat. The plant has been well established in cultivation (ex situ conservation) and is grown by succulent plant growers all over the world.
Distribution and habitat
The Swartwatersberg Mountains consist of hard quartzites (Witteberg Group, Cape Supergroup). They range from about 600–800 m in altitude, with Kowie Thicket vegetation of the Albany Thicket Biome (Mucina & Rutherford 2006) on the lower slopes and in the poort (gorge). Rain falls mainly during summer and ranges from 400–500 mm per annum. The average annual daily maximum temperature is about 24°C and the average daily minimum about 11°C. Gasteria doreeniae grows at an altitude of 350–500 m and shares its cliff face habitat with the following succulent and bulbous species: Crassula intermedia, C. lactea, C. orbicularis, C. pellucida subsp. marginalis, C. perforata, Delosperma laxipetalum, Haemanthus albiflos and Ornithogalum longibracteatum.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The specific epithet honours Doreen Court, botanist and author of Succulent flora of southern Africa who discovered the plants at Swartwaterspoort (E. Cape). It was first described in the succulent journal Aloe in 2004.
Gasteria doreeniae is pollinated by sunbirds.
Gasteria doreeniae grows on larger to smaller ledges of the Swartwaterspoort as well as on the rocky scree below. It flowers during spring (October to November), and sporadically at other times. The seeds are wind-dispersed. Seeds ripen during summer coinciding with the rainy season. Like in many other Gasteria species its leaves are brittle and will proliferate when fallen into a crevice.
Uses and cultural aspects
Apart from its horticultural use, the plants are not used medicinally or otherwise.
Growing Gasteria doreeniae
Gasteria doreeniae thrives in cultivation and does best as a pot plant or grown in miniature rock gardens. It is a prolific grower and its stoloniferous nature soon ensures dense clusters. Gasteria doreeniae grows fairly fast.It can be grown out-of-doors, but is best cultivated in dry Mediterranean-type gardens where frost is not too severe. Plants prefer partial shade, and in hot climates should therefore be protected from full sun. Plants should reach flowering size in about 3 years.
Easily propagated from seed, leaf cuttings or by division. It is best to apply a fungicide when growing from seed. Sow seed during spring or summer in a warm, shady position in a sandy slightly acidic soil and keep moist. Cover with a thin layer of sand and keep moist. Germination is usually within 3 weeks. Seedlings grow slowly and are best planted out about a year after sowing. Propagation from leaf cuttings is best undertaken in spring. Allow the leaf cutting to form a heel by placing it on a dry window sill for a week or three. Cuttings are best rooted in clean sand. Once rooted, plants can be planted into individual containers. Plants react well to organic feeding (compost or any other liquid fertilizer). Gasteria doreeniae can be watered at any time of the year. Watering during winter should be reduced, but during long dry hot spells a good watering should be provided.
References & suggested reading
- Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds) 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 1994. Gasterias of South Africa. Fernwood Press.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. & Van Wyk A.E. 2004. Gasteria doreeniae, a new species from the Eastern Cape. Aloe 41: 4: 81–83.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2007. The genus Gasteria, a synoptic review. Aloe 44: 4: 84–103.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Ernst van Jaarsveld