Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mesemb of the Month: Aloinopsis malherbei

The name "Aloinopsis" means "looks like an aloe", and I totally disagree with that. First, Aloinopsis are generally very, very small plants, whereas aloes, relatively speaking, can grow to the size of Godzilla. Second, they don't look alike at all, except that they both form rosettes, and they are both succulents. Here are two Aloinopsis. A. malherbei is the blooming one at top (the lower is an A. luckhoffii):
A Pair of Aloinopsis
Aloinopsis of all sorts come from the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa. One species, A. orpenii, can be found in Northern Cape Province, just to be different (there's always one, isn't there?). They particularly love rocky niches, so they can be hard to spot.

Aloinopsis have delightfully pebbly leaf surfaces. Technically, the little bumps are called tubercles, but I call them knobbles. A. malherbei has knobbles only on the top leaf edges. Other species have more generally scattered knobbles, or very subtle knobbles (A. orpenii).

They like a lot of sun, sparse water in summer, and virtually none in winter. Red spider mites and mealy bugs can attack them, making them a little more fragile than many mesembs, which are generally pest-impervious.  But to compensate, they are quite frost-hardy.

The blooms are silky and saffron-yellow. I can't detect any odor. They have thick, tuberous roots and prefer well-drained, even rocky soil. Aloinopsis make a beautiful addition to any mesemb garden.

Enjoy your weekend, fellow gardeners!

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