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The Huernia Page

Carrion Flowers

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Huernia   R. Brown 1810
Named for: (mis-spelling of) Justus van Heurne (1577 - 1652) Dutch missionary & botanist 
Huernia macrocarpa

Sixty-four species of Huernia are found in eastern and southern Africa, Ethiopia and Arabia. They are low (10 cm) perennials with angular fleshy stems armed with large teeth. The grey-green stems branch from the base forming large clumps.
Attractive flowers, 2-3 cm in diameter with short stalks, are produced freely in the summer and autumn from the base or middle of the stems. The flowers which may be red, yellow or brown and often spotted, have a 5-angled margin or are 5-lobed with a characteristic small lobe in the angle between the main lobes. The flowers often produce a smell of carrion to attract pollinator flies. The strength and quality of this perfume varies considerably between different species.

huernia aspera

Huernia aspera  N.E. Brown 1887
Name: Latin aspera = rough, uneven, refering to roughened petals 
This small mat-forming succulent plant has procumbent angled stems with small degenerate leaves forming teeth. Stems root as they touch the substrate. The five-lobed flowers are dark-red to purple-black with a papillose surface and produce a foul odour to attract pollinators.
Native to East Africa: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

huernia booleana

Huernia boleana  M.G. Gilbert 1975
Name: from the Bole Valley 
An easily-grown Huernia, with attractively furry (papillate) flowers, about 2 cm in diameter. The flowers produce a characteristic perfume rather similar to that of a mouse that has been dead for some time, and is especially pronounced in my clone of this species. Huernia Boleana is found growing on cliffs and grassy slopes in the Bole valley in Ethiopia. BlowFly

huernia brevirostris

Huernia brevirostris  N.E. Brown 1877
Syn. Huernia thuretii  Cels ex Hérincq 1866
Name: Latin brevis = short + rostrus = beaked, billed 
This variable succulent plant has angular, toothed stems that offset to form low mounds. Yellowish flowers with many tiny reddish spots are produced from the base of the stems.
Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

huernia hislopiihuernia hislopii

Huernia hislopii  Turrill 1922
Named for: Alexander Hislop (1880 - 1945) botanist who collected plants in Rhodesia. 
The cream flowers with raised reddish spots and papillae are relatively large for this genus. 
Native to mountains of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

huernia hystrixhuernia hystrix

Huernia hystrix  N.E. Brown 1876 (Porcupine Huernia)
Name: Latin hystrix spiny (like a porcupine) 
This Southern African succulent plant grows easily and is free-flowering in late summer. The flowers, about 2 cm in diameter, have quite fleshy papillae and are particularly attractive. 
Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa and Southern Zimbabwe.

huernia piersii

Huernia insigniflora  C.A. Maass 1928
Syn. Huernia zebrina subspecies insigniflora  (C.A.Maass) Bruyns 2005
Name: Latin insignis = remarkable, noted + flora = flower 

Native to Limpopo, Mpumalanga.

huernia laevis

Huernia laevis  J.R.I. Wood 1984
Name: Latin laevis = smooth 

Native to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

huernia macrocarpahuernia macrocarpa

Huernia macrocarpa  Sprenger 1892
Name: Greek macro = large + carpos = fruit  

Native to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

huernia piersii

Huernia piersii  N.E. Brown 1909
Named for: Charles Presgrave Piers (1886 - 1962) who discovered this species 

Native to the Eastern Great Karoo of South Africa.

huernia pillansiihuernia pillansii

Huernia pillansii  N.E. Brown 1904
An interesting Huernia from the South African Cape, which flowers freely in late summer and early autumn. The dense array of tubercles on the stems makes this species stand out in a collection or on the showbench.

huernia plowseii

Huernia plowseii   L.C. Leach 1988

 Photo: Sebastian Boniforti

huernia procumbens

Huernia procumbens  (R.A. Dyer) L.C. Leach 1969

huernia saudiarabica

Huernia saudiarabica  D.V. Field 1981

huernia schneiderana

Huernia schneiderana  A. Berger 1913
An easily-grown Huernia, although the dark-red flowers, about 2 cm in diameter, are not the most spectacular in the group. Originates from Malawi.

huernia verekeri

Huernia verekeri  Stent 1933

huernia zebrina

Huernia zebrina  N.E. Brown 1909

Cultivation of Huernias

These small succulent plants will never out-grow their welcome and a decent collection can be maintained in a small space. Many species have quite charming colourful flowers although their foetid perfume when flowering may make them undesirable house guests in living quarters.
A gritty, very free-draining compost is suitable, and clay pots help the plants to dry out between watering. Huernia species vary in their susceptibility to rotting, but are generally fairly easy to grow, especially if kept pest-free. The plants grow best in warm conditions, but may be overwintered at 10°C if kept dry. As with most asclepiads, it is unwise to leave them wet in cold weather, but Huernia seem to require plenty of water and fertiliser in hot weather if they are to flower freely. They are very susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs, and damage from these may well initiate fungal attack. It is as well to take frequent stem cuttings, which may be laid on gritty compost and will then root from the underside of the stems.