Huernia namaquensis


Huernia herrei
Huernia owamboensis


The Namaqua Carrion Flower, or Huernia namaquensis, originates from Little Namaqualand, specifically on rocks near Hoigat in the Richtersveld region. There is some uncertainty regarding its presence in Southern Namibia. This succulent thrives in rocky environments and is closely associated with Huernia namaquensis.


The Namaqua Carrion Flower, scientifically known as Huernia namaquensis, is a fascinating succulent that grows close to the ground. It produces upright shoots which take root upon contact with the soil, creating a densely packed, low-growing cluster. This unique plant has forgone traditional leaves, relying solely on its stems for photosynthesis. The flowers, ranging from whitish yellow to a speckled red, vary in size and shape within the species.

The stems of the Namaqua Carrion Flower measure between 3.5 to 6 centimeters in length and 10-15(-20) millimeters in thickness. They can be upright, decumbent, or ascending, with a slightly twisted appearance and triangular teeth that are 3-4 millimeters long. These teeth are sharply pointed and bear a persistent hard white tip, which serves as a rudimentary leaf. Additionally, conspicuous axillary buds are present, with the teeth typically curving downward.

The flowers form in groups of 2 to 6, positioned horizontally to nodding at the base of the shoots. They have a face that is papillous, ranging in size from 20-25 millimeters in length and (15-)20-25(35) millimeters in width. The coloration is primarily whitish yellow, with distinct red markings. The peduncle measures approximately 1.2 (-2) centimeters, while the bracts are around 3 millimeters in length. The pedicel, which can reach up to 15(-25) millimeters in length, tends to be brownish or purple and tends to nod. Sepals range from 3-5(-6) millimeters in length and 1-1.5 millimeters in width.

The corolla, both inside and outside, displays a range of colors from yellowish to brown, with the interior having a creamy to pale yellow hue. It is stippled with reddish or purple marks, occasionally exhibiting irregular concentric lines. The corolla tube takes on a cup-like shape, being rounded at the base and devoid of hairs. The mouth is noticeably constricted, measuring up to 6 millimeters in depth and 8 millimeters in width, and is densely covered in tiny papillae. These papillae give the corolla a creamy appearance with numerous small maroon dots. The corolla lobes are upright, triangular, slightly curved inward, and pointed at the tip, measuring around 5 millimeters in length. They are densely covered in papillae, which are mostly blunt or rounded in shape.

The outer corona-lobes exhibit shades of crimson or purple and are deeply bifid, weakly 2-notched, or variably incised. They may also fuse into a disc, especially in specimens from the Hellskloof region. The inner lobes are yellow with crimson markings and are claw-like, at least as long as the anthers. They tend to curve inward above the style head, occasionally standing upright, and are rarely equipped with a prominent transverse furrow at the base. The pollinia, or pollen masses, are yellowish in color.


Cultivating and propagating Huernia namaquensis is straightforward. It thrives in a range of conditions, from light shade to full sun (although it can tolerate some shadow). The plant is highly resilient to heat and can withstand moderately cold temperatures, but it should be protected from frost. It flourishes best in a well-ventilated environment and shows notable resistance to the “Black spot” disease common in Asclepiads.

During spring, when the plant resumes growth after winter, it requires ample watering. At this point, soaking the pots will not pose a risk of root rot. Partial shade is ideal for spring growth, and exposure to rain can provide the necessary moisture.

Throughout summer, the plant can handle heavy rainfall but is equally content in drier conditions. It’s advisable to tidy up the stems while the plant is in its summer rest phase before the autumn growth cycle begins. Huernia namaquensis can tolerate high temperatures outdoors as long as it’s in filtered light. This encourages flowering in the autumn. Fertilizer is also beneficial, but relocating the plant while it’s developing buds may lead to flower loss.

In autumn, keep the plant outdoors until nighttime temperatures dip below 5°C.

Winter care is trouble-free at temperatures between 5°-10°C, with ample light. Once the plant has flowered, take extra precautions to keep it dry, as damp and cool conditions during the rest phase invite fungal infections. Depending on the temperatures, occasional light watering may be beneficial.

When it comes to potting, use a cactus mix or amend regular potting soil with additional perlite or pumice. A well-draining, gritty compost is suitable, and clay pots aid in allowing the plant to dry out between watering. Repot every two years.

Regarding pests and diseases, Huernia plants are generally low-maintenance, particularly when kept free from pests. They are vulnerable to mealy bugs on the stems and roots, which can lead to fungal problems. It’s crucial to promptly remove any dead or dying stems to prevent the spread of illness to healthy parts. Isolate the healthy portions, let them dry, and re-root them in fresh compost.


The simplest way to propagate Huernia namaquensis is through stem cuttings. After taking the cuttings, let them air dry for a day before planting. Lay the stems on gritty compost without burying them, and roots will develop from the underside. Another method of propagation is from seeds, which can be sown in moist, sandy peat moss during the spring. Only lightly cover the seeds, as they germinate swiftly.


The etymology of the botanical name “Huernia namaquensis” can be broken down as follows:

– “Huernia”: This genus was named in honor of Justin Heurnius, a 17th-century Dutch botanist and physician.
– “namaquensis”: This specific epithet refers to the plant’s native habitat in the Namaqualand region, which spans parts of South Africa and Namibia. The suffix “-ensis” is a Latin term indicating “originating from” or “belonging to.”

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