Habitat: South Africa and Namibia
Cultivation: Titanopsis is not a demanding plant, as long as it’s kept to warm temperatures (never below 0°C, not even in winter). Put it in direct sunlight to make its leaves take on their typical, beautiful colored shades.
Curiosity: The name comes from the Greek “titanos”, which could translate as “limestone”, and -opsis (which means “similar”). The name refer to the resemblance between the plants and limestone.
The genus Titanopsis includes 3 to 6 species, depending on botanists’ opinions. They are small plants in the Aizoaceae family, with very short stems and rosettes dense of leaves with a very unique appearance. The rosettes can reach, in general, a maximum height of about 10 cm.
Titanopsis are native to South Africa and Namibia, however the area of distribution is not continuous. This mainly means that the different species come from different rainfall system: a few of them are native to zones with winter rainfall, others to summer rainfall zones. The different species thus gave a different vegetative season and dormancy periods. In particular, the main areas of distribution are southern Namibia, the region around the south-eastern border of Namibia and a larger area spanning between the former Cape Province and Orange Free State in South Africa. Its habitats range from limestone outcrops of T. calcarea, which camouflages among the calcareous rock thanks to the white colour of its numerous bumps. The invisibility of such plants in their desert home is really remarkable and in the dry season they camouflage to such an extent that they can only be spotted by the keenest eye.
Both in its natural habitat and in cultivation, Titanopsis tend to form dense clusters or mats, extended horizontally.
The peculiarity of this plant lies in its leaves, which widen in an evident way towards the tip and are covered of small swellings, like many bubbles, appearing on its surface and in particular on the very point. They have a lighter coloration, almost white, than the rest of the leaf which is greyish blue, and increase the mimetic attitude of the plant. Some species, in particular T. setifera, show short spines instead of bumps. This aspect of the leaves remind the ones of Aloinopsis plants. Another feature which makes the leaves of these plants so pretty is their small dimension: they don’t exceed in fact 3 centimeters in length.
The colors of the leaves are also peculiar. Though it’usually green or gray, when the plants grow with a sufficient amount of sunlight they turn pink, red, or even deep purple according to the species and the light received.
Flowers are daisy-like, 2-3 centimeters wide and can be white (with various pinkish shades), yellow or red. They sprout from the center of the rosette in early spring.
Titanopsis often have tuberous roots or taproots, which enables them to survive drought, as they serve as stocks for water and nutreients.
VARIETY AND TYPES
The species of Titanopsis recognized to date range from 3 to 6, depending on the classification adopted. Here below they are:
- T. calcarea
- T. fulleri (for some, it is included among T. calcarea)
- T. hugo-schlecteri
- T. lüderitzii (or luederitzii – for some, it belongs to T. schwantesii)
- T. primosii (for some, it belongs to T. schwantesii)
- T. schwantesii
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Titanopsis is not a demanding plant at all. Here are our cultivation tips:
- Choose a position in full sun to enhance the reddish or purple tinges of the leaves.
- It is suggested to keep these plants always above 0°C, even in winter. Unlike many succulents it resists even to wet winters, if temperatures do not drop too much.
- Water regularly during the growing season, which however occurs in different periods according to the species. This means that, if your Titanopsis is from a Winter rainfall area, you should water regularly during Autumn and Winter and suspend the irrigation in Summer and, if your plant is from a Summer rainfall area, on the contrary you should water in Winter. If possible, you should thus try to understand from where your species is from. A good way could be to observe when it starts to put out new leaves, as that’s when its growth season starts and, namely, when you should start to water it. In any case, before each watering, wait always for the soil to dry up completely.
- It is not a very demanding plant and, for cultivation, you can use a standard compost for cacti. Attention: there are differences depending on the species and, curiously, Titanopsis calcarea is the one that does not want soils rich in limestone!
- It is sufficient to fertilize once a year, at the beginning of the vegetative season.
Given the small size of the plant, the need of repotting is almost totally absent.
The propagation is usually carried out by sowing. In some cases it is possible divide the tufts, if the plant is sufficiently large and has already well-developed roots.