Geraniaceae

Growers of zonal and regal pelargoniums — the "geraniums" of the layman —may have little idea of the diversity of this large and versatile genus of over 250 species in the drier parts of South Africa. About the only thing all species have in common is an apparent indifference to neglect and hardships that would kill off anything but a superplant. P. tetragonum is truly stem-succulent, with three- or four-angled, jointed grey-green stems: P. echinatum has warty tubercles, and P. gibbosum a gouty swelling at each node. One or two come perilously near to being leaf succulents. But the majority have a caudex at or below ground level, bearing rosettes of deciduous leaves that are often much-lobed, pinnate or carrot-like (21.18). Flowers are far less showy than in the popular florists' cultivare, but not to be disregarded completely (4.5).

Sarcocaulon is a related genus of about a dozen species from South West Africa with thorny stems so rich in resin that long after they die the desert is littered with pipe-like fragments of the skeleton. The name 'Bushman's Torch' comes from the local custom of setting light to the stems, which bum like a torch.

All the succulent Geraniaceae come into leaf in late autumn, and are best accommodated on a high, unshaded shelf near the glass; give water only as long as they show green leaves.

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