Pterodiscus speciosus


Harpagophytum pinnatifidum


Pterodiscus speciosus is native to South Africa, specifically in Mpumalanga, as well as in Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. It thrives at altitudes ranging from 850 to 1450 meters. In its natural habitat, you’ll find this plant in areas with exposed, alluvial soil within grasslands. It’s interesting to note that in South-east Botswana, many specimens display characteristics that are intermediary between P. speciosus and Pterodiscus ngamicus. This suggests some intriguing transitional forms in this region.


Pterodiscus speciosus is a perennial-suffrutex plant. It has a tuberous underground caudex, a bit like a carrot or a cone, which can be bright yellow and grow up to 6 cm in diameter and 50 cm tall. This tuber stays underground in the wild but is often raised above ground in cultivation. The plant grows and blooms during the summer months.
The annual stems are short, slender, and stand upright. The lower parts can become somewhat woody. These stems arise from the tuber and reach a height of 15-25 cm. They tend to fall off in the winter when the plant goes dormant.
The leaves appear on the upper part of the stems. They are a dull green color and are simple and linear-oblong in shape. They often have lobes that are somewhat like a feather’s shape and display darker stripes leading to a dark red center. These leaves can grow up to 6 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. The front lobe is typically larger.
The flowers are quite attractive and grow in the leaf axils. They have a tubular, funnel-like shape and come in shades of bright red-purple, purplish-pink, or yellowish pink. They somewhat resemble blooms from Streptocarpus or Adenium plants. The tube is 25-50 mm long, and the open part can be 30–45 mm in diameter.
This plant starts flowering when it is still quite small. The fruit, when mature, looks oval or round when viewed from the side. It’s usually about 18-22 mm long and 16 mm wide. The fruits have four wings, each about 3 mm wide, and they ripen in spring. There is one seed in each section of the fruit.


Pterodiscus speciosus is an exceptionally adaptable and robust plant, thriving in conditions where many others might struggle. It’s particularly well-suited for regions with warm climates. This plant exhibits remarkable resilience, performing admirably in environments ranging from partial shade to full sun. What sets it apart is its remarkable ability to flourish effortlessly in a wide range of pseudo-tropical settings.
For optimal growth, it’s recommended to cultivate Pterodiscus speciosus in well-draining soil, ensuring ample watering during its active growth phase, and allowing it to remain dry during its dormant period. This species demonstrates a notable tolerance for neglect. Surprisingly, a little care and attention, such as repotting or fertilizing, can lead to a rapid and abundant burst of new growth. When it comes to young plants, utilizing a diluted fertilizer can be beneficial in expediting their development.
While robust in many aspects, it’s important to note that Pterodiscus speciosus is sensitive to low temperatures and cannot withstand anything below 2°C. In the event of exposure to freezing conditions, outdoor specimens may recover from their roots. Nevertheless, this plant displays commendable heat tolerance, making it a suitable choice for warmer climates.


The propagation of Pterodiscus speciosus can be carried out both through sowing and cutting.


The genus name “Pterodiscus” originates from the Latin words “ptero,” meaning ‘winged,’ and “discus,” referring to a ‘disc’ or flat, circular shape. Meanwhile, the species name is derived from the striking and attractive nature of its flowers.

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