Family: Asparagaceae
Habitat: Sub-saharian Africa, however most species are from the Karoo desert, in South Africa.
Cultivation: Not so difficult. It also depends on whether the species is native to winter-rainfall areas or summer-rainfall ones.
Curiosity: Their name comes from Greek and literally means “downy seed”, in reference to its seeds, covered by a white hairy layer.


Eriospermum is a genus of plants in the family of Asparagaceae. It includes 100 flowering, tuberous plants, appreciated in the world of ornamental gardening for their big caudex and, in some species, the beautiful flowerings.

A caudex is an evolutionary device typical of semi-arid areas and used as a stock for nutrients and water to face harsh conditions of dry environments. In this case, actually, to be more accurate, it’s actually a tuber, which sometimes produces also rhizomes and stolons. The tuber is usually round, but often very lumpy and with an irregular surface.

Eriospermus are native to dry lands in sub-saharian Africa, though the majority of the species of this genus can be found in South Africa, where they grow in winter-rainfall areas, after winter rains.

Their habitat are generally rocky grasslands, open scrubs, arid areas, or either, some species grow in shady places between rocks. Many species are from the Karoo desert, which is a semi-desert area with a remarkable succulent biodiversity, which host a lot of succulent species.

Their name comes from Greek and literally means “downy seed”, in reference to its seeds, covered by a white hairy layer.

Eriospermus are really variable in size, depending on the environent they’re native to.

Leaves are solitary. Their features are different depending on the species: they may be hairless or hairy, erect to prostrate, oval to heart-shaped (more frequently heart-shaped) etc…, but in general they are broadleaf. In some species, however such as E. erinum. leaves are completely transformed to look like the vegetative organs of some lichene or muss. They are always produced before the flowers are.

Flowers are star-shaped and small, variously coloured depending on the species: from green-yellow to white-pinkish.


Here below are some species of Eriospermum:

  • E. arenosum
  • E. aribesense
  • E. armianum
  • E. attenuatum
  • E. bakerianum
  • E. bayeri
  • E. bellendenii
  • E. bifidum
  • E. bowieanum
  • E. bracteatum
  • E. calcareum
  • E. capense
  • E. cecilii
  • E. cernuum
  • E. cervicorne
  • E. ciliatum
  • E. citrinum
  • E. coactum
  • E. compactum
  • E. cooperi
  • E. cordiforme
  • E. corymbosum
  • E. crispum
  • E. currorii
  • E. descendens
  • E. stenophyllum
  • E. subincanum
  • E. subtile
  • E. titanopsoides
  • E. totajnopsoides
  • E. triphyllum
  • E. tuberculatum
  • E. tulbaghioides
  • E. undulatum
  • E. vermiforme

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To grow Eriospermum isn’t so difficult. Remember that these plants are dormant during the Summer, thus, in this period, their pots can be placed in bright spots, exposed to direct sunlight, and watered speringly, only when the soil is completely dry. The growing season occurs instead in Autumn.

  • In general, it’s recommended to put it in a bright spot, as it requires plenty of light throughout the year.
  • It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 10 °C, for this reason it is recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
  • Water regularly but moderately during the growing season (when the new leaves are born, so Autumn), always making sure that the soil is always dry between one watering and the next one. During the dormant period (when the leaves begin to turn yellow and fall, leaving only the bare caudex) suspend watering.
  • The best soil is a well-draining and porous one, even better if further enriched with 50% or more of inert materials such as pumice, lapilli or clay.
  • They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.
  • Repotting necessities depend on the species.

Propagation of Eriospermums is usually carried out through seeds. Remember, though, that Eriospermum isn’t self-compatible: this means that, to obtain seeds, you must have at least 2-3 plant of the same species and pollinate them using a fine paintbrush. After that, anyway, it gets easier, as seeds germinate easily, if sown right beneath the soil surface and maintained humid.

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