Orbea ubomboensis


Angolluma ubomboensis
Australluma ubomboensis
Caralluma ubomboensis
Ceropegia ubomboensis
Pachycymbium ubomboense


Orbea ubomboensis is native to KwaZulu-Natal, Mozambique, Northern Provinces, Swaziland and Zimbabwe where the plant grows on granite or sandstone soils and can reach up to 1450 m of altitude.


Orbea ubomboensis is an uncommon succulent belonging to the Asclepiadaceae botanical family. The plant has a branched habit and an erect or procumbent stem that roots freely in contact with the soil. The succulent may reach up to 8 cm in height and forms small clumps. Orbea ubomboensis is the only species in its genus that usually spreads by means of underground runners. The stem is quadrangular, greyish-green with purple spots, with opposite, fleshy and pointed tubercles. The leaves are rudimental, 5 mm long with stipular glands and fall when ripe. Blooming occurs from the early summer to the late autumn and the blossoms are borne by short stalks along the stem. The plant produces from 1-3 flowers, they are star-shaped, five-lobed, with petals backward curved, dark purple in color with a glossy appearance. The fetid smell is useful to the plant to attract flies for pollination. The fruits are small follicles, smooth, tapering to both ends containing hairy seeds. The flowers resemble Stapelia flowers so the plant is often confused with a Stapelia.


This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light during the summer. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. The plant does not like temperatures below 10°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 10 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice, clay and loam. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. In Spring and Autumn, the plant can be watered with half a glass of water every week; in summer it can be watered with two glasses of water a week; in winter stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant must be fed with a high potassium fertilizer in the summer. You can dilute the fertilizer twice a month in the irrigation water. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 2 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.


Propagation can be done by stem cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. It is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°. The seeds will germinate quickly even without immerging them in water first.


The name Orbea comes from the latin word “orbis”, that means circle, disk. That’s because of its star-shaped fleshy flower, which has a raised, more or less prominent disk or annulus in its central part. The specific epithet “ubomboensis” means of the Ubombo (Lebombo) area in Eastern South Africa.

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