Plant of the Month – Oct 2017

Glottiphyllu regium
Glottiphyllum regium N.E. Brown 1928
(AKA: Koeispene)

Glottiphyllum regium is a clump-forming succulent and can attain a height of 13 cm and a width of 15 cm. It has a semi-fibrous, shallow root system typical of some succulents. The roots are not destructive and plants can be planted right next to structures. Branches are short and the leaves are oblong and tongue-shaped. Inflorescences are staked and flowers can measure up to 35 mm in diameter. The flowers are an iridescent yellow. It flowers from June to late December, its peak flowering time being September.

Glottiphyllum regium is assessed as Endangered (EN) on the Red List of South African Plants. It occurs over a relatively small area and at five locations, the populations are decreasing due to the habitat being degraded by grazing, trampling and soil erosion due to ostrich farming. This species is restricted to Sandstone slopes or sandy loam in the central Little Karoo region of the Western Cape.

The genus name Glottiphyllum is derived from the Greek glotta = tongue and phyllon = leaf, thus Glottiphyllum means a tongue-like leaf. The specific epithet regium means ‘of kings’ It is the largest and possibly the most attractive of the whole Glottiphyllum group. There are 16 species of Glottiphyllum found in South Africa.

The family Aizoaceae (vygies) is the largest of the succulent plant families in southern Africa. Aizoaceae are almost endemic to the southern Africa region where it is estimated that there are over 1800 species. They occur from elevations of 3500 m to sea-level. Vygies occur in a variety of landscapes ranging from afromontane, karroid and arid to subtropical coastal belts and grasslands. Vygies are even found growing on the most southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas.

The flowers tend to open fully from 11:00 am as do many other Aizoaceae species. The reason for this is the need for sufficient sunlight and warmth. Mainly bees pollinate the flowers during the day. In the evening the pollinators are most likely to be moth species. Glottiphyllum regium should be cultivated more widely in public and private gardens. It is cultivated at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester and at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. Another species, Glottiphyllum linguiforme, contains a small amount of oxalic acid. The African tribes are known to have made a beer from this plant and early Europeans have used Glottiphyllum linguiforme as a yeast, for bread-making.

Thanks to SANBI

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