|25 years ago, when I became interested in collecting
cacti and other succulents, the stapeliads were my “love at the first sight”. I came
across them in the book Pocket Encyclopaedia of Cacti in Colour Including Other
Succulents by B. and E. Lamb, which was then the only non-Slovenian book on succulents
in our country. Orbea variegata, Huernia zebrina and Duvalia parviflora
caught my eye immediately. I bought the first Huernia zebrina from a local grower,
and then the second and the third one… Due to harsh winter conditions, they didn’t
survive. When I built a greenhouse, my stapeliads were enabled to grow in better
is one of the most beautiful species of the genus. It is easily recognisable. Only zebrine
form of Huernia insigniflora (H. confusa) is similar to it. The most
similar is zebrine form of Huernia insigniflora (H. confusa). Two subspecies
are described: Huernia zebrina ssp. zebrina N.E. BROWN and Huernia zebrina ssp. magniflora (PHILIPS) LEACH. They differ in size
of the stems and flowers.
Huernia zebrina ssp. zebrina
Plants spread and
make clumps with the side rooted stems. 5 cm long and about 1 cm wide stems
usually have 5 or rarely 6 ribs with rather strong teeth. The corolla is 35-45 mm wide
with a distinctly embossed shiny annulus. It is covered with red to dark purple-brown
spots on a cream coloured background. They merge on the topside of the annulus and give an
impression that it is entirely dark purple-brown. Corolla lobes are transversally striped
with reddish to red-brown or purple irregular zebra markings (name of the plant). As with
other plants of the genus, H. zebrina has an intermediate lobe. The basic colour of
corolla is variable. Creamish is predominating, but last year I sowed seeds marked as
greenish colour of corolla.
The outer corona
lobes are cream coloured with a dark purple margin. The inner corona lobes are of the same
colour with purplish spots.
Distribution of H.
zebrina is in SE Africa in lowland areas of Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South
African Republic (Natal and eastern Transvaal) on the altitudes under 400 m.
Huernia zebrina ssp. magniflora
H. zebrina ssp. magniflora
is taller, more robust and clump forming. Stems are mostly 4-angled. Its flowers are
usually twice as big as than those of ssp. zebrina and can reach up to 85 mm. Corolla
is more variable in colour, markings and size than with its smaller relative.
Distribution of ssp.
magniflora is more scattered than with ssp. zebrina. They can be found on
the eastern as well as on the western side of South Africa. The widest distribution is in
Zimbabwe and Transvaal; some isolated habitats are in Botswana and in Namibia on the
western side of the continent.
The plant isn’t so
difficult to grow as I initially thought. In the growth season, it needs regular watering
just like other members of our collections. The plant need winter temperature over 10 °C.
It musn’t be drained up too much. Periodical careful watering in warm days is
needs to be grown in a well-drained soil mixture. I use one part of commercial soil
without peat and two parts of perlit. Sharp sand or pumice can be used, but quartz sand
Pests and diseases
are the same as with other stapeliads. Black rot is the most frequent bacterial disease
and it bereaves the collection of many plants. I have read somewhere that it was
successfully suppressed by antibiotic Streptomycin or its plants equivalent Agromycin.
Black rot appears when the soil is too wet. Characteristic blackish spots spread upon the
cambium. Infected black parts of the plant must be cut away, the rest of the plant then
dried and rooted. The worst pests are mealy-bugs. Brush and alcohol can be used in case of
a minor attack, for stronger attacks only systemic insecticides are effective.
Occasionally red spider mites can attack it, too. They can be chased away by regular
spraying of the plant with water.
Propagation of Huernia
zebrina is possible with stem-cuttings, which root very quickly and with seeds as
well. They are often not easy obtainable. Seeds are oval, about 5 mm long and 3 mm wide.
They germinate in a few days. Young plants grow very rapidly and could become about
2 cm tall in one month’s time.