Rabiea albinota is native to South Africa: in particular, it’s widespread in the areas of Karroo and Free State in Cape Province. Its habitat are arid plains in semi-desertic environments, where it grows in rocks crevices to stay more protected from herbivorous and intense sunlight. In this climate areas, rainfall occurs mainly in the Summer however occasional rains can happen all year round.
R. albinota is a dwarf, mat-forming succulent, almost stemless and highly branched. It consisted in a dense clump of stacked rosettes of almost-perfectly conical, deep green leaves. Another typical feature is the black, prominent spots in which the surface of its leaves is completely covered. If you run a fingertips on it, you’ll feel it’s rough. The edges of the conical leaves, in addiction, are slightly whitened and the leaves tips are mucronated. “Mucronated”, in botany, means “sharply pointed”: a mucrone, in fact, is a particular kind of acuminate point of some types of leaves. The growth organisation of the leaves is in opposite pairs, crossed perpendicularly over each other, so that every new pair of leaves doesn’t cover the older one. It is a way to maximize the light received and thus the photosyntetical surface. Another peculiar feature of R. albinota is the reddish tinges taken on by the upper part of the conical leaves if the plant grows exposed to direct sunlight. In particularly dru condition, leaves grow completely erected, instead of spreading diagunally as it happens usually.
Flowers are very showy: bright-yellow, daisy-like, relatively big if compared to the size of the rosettes (4-5 centimeters in diameter), they grow solitary (that is to say, not grouped in inflorescence) and open during the afternoon. A single plant can bear a maximum of two flowers at the same time. The blooming season occurs from late Winter to late Spring, though it might flower occasionally all year round.
R. albinota is not difficult to grow. Here below are our cultivation tips:
Put it in a bright spot: it’s very adaptable and appreciates direct sunlight. However, you might keep it away from it at least during the hottest hours of Summer days.
R. albinota is remarkably resistant to cold: it can survive down to -17ºC if its substrate is kept completely dry. However, to stay safe (especially if you live in climate areas with humid Winters), we advice to put it indoors in Winter.
R. albinota has not a neat distinction between a dormancy and a growth period: if watered all year round, it will continue to grow. In its natural habitat, in fact, however rainfalls are mainly concentrated in Summer, occasional rains can occur all year round; to this species has a more variable growth behaviour. However, the general tips for succulents; which is to water regularly in Spring and Summer and to reduce the irrigation frequency in Autumn and Winter, is valid. However, don’t suspend completely the irrigation in Winter: provide the plant with some water at least once a month.
Choose a well-draining soil, with a good mineral part, not too light.
Fertilization is rarely necessary: to dilute some succulent-specific product with watering once a year will be enough.
Repot your R. albinota once a year: it is a mat-forming succulent and generally needs wide, shallow pots despite its remarkable, thick root system that is used by some growers with an ornamental purpose. Precisely, the plant can be raised up while repotting in order to make the roots partially visible and obtain a highly-decorative, striking effect.
The propagation of R. albinota is carried out mainly thorugh cuttings and, more rarely, through seeds. The easiest way is actually to divide the clumps. Leaf cuttings are also possible, but they are rarely successfull.
R. albinota is deemed to have hallucinogenic effects. Among some south African tribes, it is known as “S’Keng-Keng” and it is consumed dried and pulverized through snuffing, or either mixed with tobacco and smoked to enter states of euphoria. This statement, however, is not certain, as no chemical analysis has ever been done and, in lab condition, no psychedelic effect has never been observed. This plant is in fact often confused with the similar -looking plants of the genus Sceletium, which also possue hallucinogenic properties.
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