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Plant of the Month

December 2014

Gibbaeum album

This is member of the Mesembryanthemum family and one that everybody should grow. It grows and flowers during our winter months and will eventually fill a 130mm pot in most collections, although during my visits to its habitat I saw it growing in clumps some 20cm in diameter.

It comes from the Little Karoo area of South Africa (as do the remainder of the Gibbaeum species) and the place I saw it growing was on a farm to the east of Barrydale in association with Muiria hortensae, Gibbaeum petrense and Euphorbia suzannae. There is in fact a natural hybrid between Muiria hortensae and Gibbaeum album called Muirio–Gibbaeum muiroides, but on the visits I made to the farm these were extremely rare and I only saw at most some three or four plants of the hybrid at any time.

G album consists of a pair of unequally sized ovoid, keeled leaves covered in very short white pubescent hairs which give the bodies a velvety feel. The specific name is therefore not for the flower colour, which can be white or pink, but for the colour of the bodies which, in habitat, are a very striking white.

I grow a number of the Gibbaeum species and find that they tend to grow and flower in this country during the months of December through to March. I therefore grow them on the top shelf on the north side of my greenhouse, where they will get the maximum light during the winter months, and start watering around late September/early October through until the end of March. They, including this one, usually flower around the beginning of February through to the end of March and I stop watering at the end of the flowering period, although if it is a hot summer I may give them an occasional spray to stop the plant roots from drying up. I also provide as much ventilation as possible during the summer months and give the glass a coating of Coolglass to provide some shading, although this is removed once the winter months arrive. Using that regime I do not find them difficult plants to grow and it is always nice to have flowers in the winter months.

Eddy Harris

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