Habitat: South Africa: specifically, the rocky areas of the Gauteng province.
Cultivation: Choose a very sandy soil, water rarely, place the plant in a spot where it can get plenty of direct sun but not in the middle of the day. It grows quickly and reproduces easily.
Curiosity: The name Frithia comes from Frank Frith, an English botanist who discovered this genus at the beginning of the 1900s, although it was not until 1926 that N.E. Brown catalogued his genus.
The genus Frithia includes small (only a few centimetres tall!) Aizoaceae growing in the dry, rocky soils of a restricted area of South Africa, between Magaliesberg and Rustenburg, in the state of Transvaal. Frithia are summer-growing species, as their natural habitat lies in a summer-rainfall region.
Frithias form one to several rosettes of succulent, translucent, round leaves,totally flattened at the tip. This leaf structure is very similar to that of Fenestraria and Hawortia, of which Frithia is a close relative: the tips of the leaves act as a “window” (actually called epidermal window) that lets light through and allows the leaves to carry out chlorophyll photosynthesis. The suface of these windows are beautifully translucent.
With ‘normal’ leaves, without this “window”, these plant wouldn’t be able to carry out the photosynthesis because in nature most of is actually covered by pebbles and soil, and the leaf tips are the only part that sticks out. This is a unique, remarkable way for Frithias to fit in the extremely dry habitats. Growing almost completely under the soil surface, they are sheltered from the intense sunlight and escape burnings and withering, minimizing also water losses due to transpiration, but remain anyway able to “breath” (namely to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which is indispensable for photosynthesis). This is exactly the same behaviour of Fenestraria species. Unlike Fenestraria anyway, they need a lot of water during the Summer.
This behaviour remind also the one of Lithops, little succulents growing, or rather, barely sticking out, from the soil surface, resembling to little pebbles.
In addition to being a remarkable evolutionary strategy, the leaves of Frithias are also very pretty! They in fact have a peculiar, conical shape, with the base of the cone slightly rounded and facing upwards. Moreover, they are really tiny (a few centimeters long) and curved upwards, grouped, as mentioned above, in rosettes that look like little succulent tufts, sometimes variously colored, generally bright green but with occasional pinkish-yellowish parts forming stripes or nice patterns.
The flowers are daisy-like, small but beautifully coloured: bright fuchsia or yellow in the centre (including the inner part of the petals), then white and finally bright violet at the tips. They appear in late spring and early summer.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Nowadays there are only two species officialy classified the genus Frithia:
- F. pulchra
- F. humilis
TIPS FOR GROWING
Here are our cultivation tips:
- Choose a position in full sun, but sheltered during the hottest hours of the day. In pot, in fact, the plant does not have the possibility of remaining sunk in the soil to defend itself from the strongest sun rays as it does in its natural habitat.
- Always keep your Frithia above 5°C. It loves high temperatures.
- Water regularly every 5-6 days in spring and summer, with plenty of water, but reduce the frequency with the arrival of the Autumn, until suspending completely the irrigation during the winter.
- Choose a sandy and very well- draining soil: for example, a standard soil for cacti with addiction of sand.
- Fertilize only in early spring when the growing season begins.
- Given its small size, the repotting serves mainly to allow it to expand in width. Therefore, choose large and shallow pots. The plant has a fast growth and repotting will probably be necessary every year.
Frithia reproduce very easily both through seed and leaf cuttings. The cuttings should be buried in sandy soil after the cut wound has dried in the open air.