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We had planned to head north at a steady pace, but due to the inclement weather, decided to put some haste behind our drive towards Namibia. The weather was not too bad (typical), and the N7 is not the best road to make stops to explore for plants, so we turned east on to the Garies to Loeriesfontein road (R385), for a detour that produced all of today’s eight stops, before we rejoined the N7 near Leliefontein beginning here with S2585 – Cheiridopsis sp?

S2585 Cheiridopsis sp

S2585 Cheiridopsis sp

This seems an appropriate time to explain my approach during the trip for a practical way of provisionally identifying plants, in this case Mesembs, to at least genus level. Apart from the genera Conophytum and Lithops, that I believe are quite distinct from the others, I would lump clumps of aparent stemless Mesembs (I did not take much time to confirm how ‘stemless’) under the name Cheiridopsis if they had long paired leaves. In and around the Knersvlakte, I would provisionally file those with short leaves as Argyroderma sp while west of Oudtshoorn I would call the Gibbaeum sp. If they were not ‘clumping stemless Mesembs’ I grouped images of Mesembs under the heading ‘Mesemb shrub, followed by my interpretation (I am colour blind!) of the flower colour – white, pink, purple, red and yellow with another category of ‘not in flower’. Not very scientific, but it will have to do for now. With Mesembs I’m now at the stage where I have consulted Mesembs of the World by Gideon Smith et al and although it has helped me with a few genera, it has also has helped to confuse me with many more, to me unfamiliar, names than I can process right now, along all the other families. So do help me to speed up the process with any useful tips or hints.

The next stop, S2586, nicely illustrates my naming concepts for the genus Avonia. Before this trip, I was familiar with only two species of what at the time were called Anacampseros, A. payracea and A. alstonii that I would see on offer in European nurseries and that had a reputation of being difficult in cultivation reflected in an above average price on the sales bench, so I was quite excited to now see these plants in nature, especially here, growing side by side.

S2586 Avonia quinaria L and A papyracea R

S2586 Avonia quinaria (left) and A. papyracea (top right)

I have since learned that Gordon Rowley proposed a separate genus, Avonia, for the paper scale covered Anacampseros, with some 13 taxa. The plants are all miniatures, so that in theory it should not be too difficult for a hobbyist to grow the complete set of 13 in a small tray in the green house – IF (intentionally a big if!) you can get hold of them from nurseries – difficult plants (in Europe) tend to lead to limited availability and high prices – simple economics. Anacampseros alstonii is now Avonia quinaria ssp alstonii while I can still use ‘A. papyracea’ as the two genera share the first letter of their name.

To me, judging by the pictures and images that I found in books and on the internet, the 13 taxa are all fairly similar, requiring a close look at details, such as flowers. I read that Avonia flowers open only for one hour! So there is a challenge!! For reasons of practicality, in the field such detailed analysis is not possible, so images are filed according to size either as ‘quinaria’ or ‘papyracea’ in the knowledge that here too there is a lot more sorting to do after I have tracked down Gordon’s article proposing Avonia as a genus in Bradleya.

At S2587 I took this picture of ‘Mesemb shrub – no flowers’ – any suggestions? Clearly I need help!

S2587 Mesemb shrub, no flowers

S2587 Mesemb shrub, no flowers

S2588  taught me another Mesemb genus: Stomatium, but which species is this? My money is on Stomatium suaveolens, but I’m aware that I haven’t seen all the species in this genus and have no idea if there are other Mesemb genera that look like this:

S2588 - Stomatium suaveolens?

S2588 – Stomatium suaveolens?

And what is this Mesemb, waking up for Spring?

S2588 - Argyroderma sp

S2588 – Argyroderma sp.?

And so on to S2589 where we saw Monsonia / Sarcocaulon sp, some white-flowered plants:

S2589 - Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) sp white flowered

S2589 – Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) sp white flowered

and some with buds suggesting yellow-flowered plants – different taxa or is flower colour not important in this genus?

S2589 - Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) sp yellow flower

S2589 – Monsonia (Sarcocaulon) sp yellow flower

The remaining stops today had much the same as what we had seen before, although it was suggested that this Tylecodon might be T. pearsonii. Can anyone confirm this?

S2590 - Tylecodon pearsonii

S2590 – Tylecodon pearsonii?

We spent the night at the Okiep Country Hotel, just a 100 km from Vioolsdrift and the border with Namibia, an easy goal for tomorrow. Hopefully it would be a bit warmer and sunnier. We had not found the sunshine yet!

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