Habitat: Africa, especially Somalia.
Cultivation: Whitesloaneas are not so difficult to grow. However, any mistake can be fatal and you’ll need to be careful, especially to rot. When rot sets in, in fact, it’s difficult to save your plant.
Curiosity: Whitesloanea have an unusual smell, similar to manure. Some have assumed that the center of the flower is actually meant to mimic an anal cavity to attract natural pollinators such as flies.
Whitesloanea is a small genus of succulent plants in the family Apocynaceae, including only two species: Whitesloanea crassa and W. migiurtina.
Whitesloanea crassa is the most popular in the world of ornamental gardening between the two: it is a small, rare plant from northern Somalia.
Whitesloanea is native to northern Somalia. It grows in severely arid areas, in a semi-desertic habitat, where it can be found between the rocks, popping out from little crevices, almost camouflaging among the pebbles and the stones, so that it can be difficult to notice it. After the discovery of the currently most popular species among the two, W. crassa (which was found for the first time by Drake-Brockman in 1914), other botanists visited the area in which it was discovered, without managing to find it. In 1957, a forest officer collected a few individuals of W. crassa from another area. Since then, Whitesloanea crassa has not been seen again, although further research has also been done recently by other botanists. It may be exctincted in nature, due to pastures (they are spineless, thus they represent an easy prey for herbivores) and desertification.
Whitesloaneas are dwarf succulent with an erect habit. Most of the times, they have only one, erect succulent stem 3-14 centimeters tall and 5 centimeters wide. In its natural environment is rather stocky, in cultivation, instead, it is more slender. The stem is grey or brownish-greenish grey, to enhance the camouflaging capacity among the rocks in its natural environment. It is markedly four-angled, with a lumpy, leathery, slightly waxy surface which resembles the body of a reptile or a dinosaur. The plant produces a colourless latex and is always glabrous and spineless. Its roots are fibrous.
Inflorescences sprout at the base of the stem, at ground level, from short, fleshy petioles up to 2 centimeters tall. Every petiole has different buds and bracteas (the bracteas are special kinds of leaves developing usually at the base of flowers or inflorescences), from which usually 2-3 flowers sprout and open two at once.
Flowers are bell-shaped, with the triangular petals fused in a funnel-shaped, slightly elongated base. They are flashy, purple but with an intricate white pattern that gives the impression of a patchwork, and produce a smell of manure to attract pollinators which, in its natural environment, are mainly flies. The surface of the petals is slightly wrinckled.
Fruits of Whitesloanea are follicles. A follicle, in botany, is a dry unilocular fruit formed from one carpel, containing two or more seeds. In Whitesloaneas, follicles are spindle-shaped.
VARIETY AND TYPES
As already mentioned above, there are only two species of Whitesloanea:
- W. crassa
- W. migiurtina
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Whitesloaneas are not so difficult to grow. However, any mistake can be fatal and you’ll need to be careful, especially to rot. When rot sets in, in fact, it’s difficult to save your plant.
- Whitesloanea needs intense brightness and a good ventilation. It is preferable not to place it in full sun in summer, to avoid unsightly stains on the skin.
- It prefers mild or high temperatures, but when they drop below 10 ° C it is necessary to place it indoors or to shelter it from frosts and cold air drafts.
- Regular watering is recommended in summer. Always remember to wait for the soil to dry completely before each watering. In winter, water sparingly and rarely, as Whitesloanea is highly subsceptible to rot.
- A strongly draining substrate is optimal: we suggest to add fine gravel or sand to peat or specific soil for succulents.
- It does not need frequent fertilization, it will be ok to dilute fertilizer with watering once a year.
Propagation is usually carried out through seeds or grafting.