It is many years since I walked through the Burnt Kraal area on the fringe of Grahamstown, revelling in the trees, grasses, flowers – and of course the birds. On our way back to the vehicles, I picked up a small fleshy branch lying on the path; it had obviously been broken off – although the parent plant wasn’t obvious in the grassy area. I brought it home and stuck it in a pot to see what it might turn out to be.
Every year this dry-looking stick would sprout green leaves and occasionally a pink flower would appear. The plant has been re-potted three times already and has begun to branch out, producing more flowers every year.
Long thorny spines also appear on the branches.
The tubular flowers are a pretty pink with darker stripes leading to the centres.
As you can tell from these photographs, the leaves are still on the plants when the flowers appear.
The nearest plants to it that I can find in my guide books – and searching through Google images – are the Adenium spp. such as the Impala lily (found in the dry Lowveld vegetation – especially seen in the Kruger National Park) and the Summer Impala lily, which is also restricted to the bushveld, and especially in Swaziland (now known as the Kingdom of Eswatini). Both of these places are very far from the veld where this plant was found.
If anyone has any bright ideas about the identification of this plant, I would love to be able to put a name to it.
Dries at DeWetsWild is the star: he has identified this plant as a Pachypodium succulentum, commonly known as Thickfoot, thanks to the massive underground caudex – a thickened, underground, water-storing, tuberous stem, which helps the plant to survive during drought periods. This means that I must find an even larger pot for it! Although I had consulted the site Dries recommends in the comments, I was put off by the pale colour of the flowers illustrated there. The name he gave me, however, led me back to my Field Guide to Succulents in South Africa by Smith, Crouch and Figueiredo: the flower in that book is the same colour as mine – they apparently vary from white to crimson.
These plants are endemic to South Africa and naturally occur in stony grassland and along rocky ridges in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape as well as in the western Free State. Do look at http://pza.sanbi.org/pachypodium-succulentum for a host of very interesting information about this plant.