Rabiea lesliei


Nananthus lesliei


Rabiea lesliei is native to South Africa. Its type location, that is the place where it’s been discovered, are some hills between Westminster and Chocolan. This little succulent grows in dry hillsides meadows at altitudes between 1550 and 1900 meters above the sea level.


Rabiea lesliei is a small succulent plant that forms little tufts of fleshy leaves and tends to spread horizontally on the ground surface, in all directions. It doesn’t exceed 5 centimeters in height: it’s perfect for wide, shallow pots. It is almost stemless and has crowded, hull-shaped to tetraedric leaves arranged in untidy rosettes. These leaves are erect, pointing upwards and mucronated (which is, in botany, the spcific word to say “sharply pointed”), dark green and made rough by numerous, slightly prominent, black dots: all this features make the whole leaf look like some kind of lizards tail. A striking characteristic of R. lesliei is its flowers: daisy-like, crowded in numerous petals and wider than the entire plant, they open from late Winter to Spring in the afternoon, showing their joyful, bright yellow colour. If grown in optimal condition, this plant might bloom all year round.
The fruits of R. lesliei are called “higrochastic”. This means that they only open to spread their seeds when the environmental humidity raises beyond a certain level. This is an evolutionary device to enhance germination rate; seeds, in fact, need a substrate at least slightly moist to germinate. The higrochastic dispersion, thus, ensure that seed find themselves microclimate damp enough to germinate. This kind of seeds spreading, also, gives birth to local, small community, as seeds are dispersed in the immediately surrounding environment.


R. lesliei 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. lesliei 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. lesliei, like many Rabieas, has not a neat distinction between a dormancy and a growth period: if watered all year round, it will continue to grow, being a very adaptable species that grows whenever the water availability allows it to. In its natural habitat, in fact, however rainfalls are mainly concentrated in Summer, occasional rains can occur all year round; so, 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. By the way, don’t suspend completely the irrigation in Winter: provide the plant with some water at least once a month.
Choose a well-draining soil, even better if further enriched with 50% of inert materials such as pumice or lapilli.
Fertilization is rarely necessary: to dilute some succulent-specific product with watering once a year will be enough.
Repot your R. lesliei 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. This is an advice also valid for the similar species R. albinota. 


The propagation can be carried out by seed or division of the clusters. You can also try leaf cuttings, but they root with difficulty.


The genus Rabiea has been discovered and classified for the first time in 1930 by Nicholas Edward Brown, it owes its name to the Reverend W.A. Rabie, a collector at the time.

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