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African Curiosities

The weird and wondrous world of African plant heritage with plant collector and photographer Filipa Domingues

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By Amy Saunders | June 12, 2018 | Gardens

By  Heidi Bertish

“I’m still always blown away by these freak flowers,” says Filipa of her Stapelia gigantea in full noxious bloom. Known globally as ‘African Starfish Flower’ and occurring in southern central Africa and South Africa. The size and colour of the flower combined with its’ trademark rotting flesh odour attract flies and leading to the fly’s certain death.


Crassula Capitella (main image)

This hotty is nicknamed ‘Crassula Campfire’ for its explosion of red and green when it lives in full sun- if positioned in shade it remains green all year round. Native to southern Africa. Perennial means it lives longer than 2years in case you were wandering


Euphorbia ‘Caput-Medusae’

‘Medusa’s head from the Cape’ aptly describes this species with multiple serpent-like stems arising from a thick, woody stem. They require a little pampering to become established, but once they are, they’re self-sufficient. “In fact, more die from too much care and watering than from neglect,” says filipa of these South African natives.



Crassula capitella subsp. thyrsiflora

Filipa snips spent flowers to just before the main heads and young shoots soon take the place of the older ones. It has an extreme tolerance to drought.



Raphionacme hirsute

“Behold the Raphionacme hirsute or Khadiwortel” says Filipa of this prehistoric looking plant. “It initially looked like a rock but slowly things started happening and now this unusual east-African beauty is in full bloom, she says.” The tuber is traditionally harvested as a source of yeast to brew beer. H5-20cm .



Adenia spinosa

The fascinating Adenia spinosa  is native to Zimbabwe and occurs in Southern Africa from Mpumalanga to Zimbabwe. A deciduous shrub with a tuber capable of reaching over 1.8 meters in width. It enjoys full sun, regular watering in Summer– and no water in winter.



Euphorbia globose

This dwarf succulent is endemic to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It has a stem know as a ‘cyathium’ made up of several reduced male flowers encircling the female flower and houses numerous glands- making it a good source of food for insects.  Flowering takes place in spring, and gives rise to a smooth, curved, fruit capsule. Seeds are wind dispersed as the fruit bursts open.



Euphorbia milii

“One of my favourite prickly cacti!” says Filipa. “She is covered in pretty flowers for most of the year- and in spring adds a show of green leaves.” H90cm.



Crassula orbicularis

The ‘Stone Crassula’ occurs along the coastal parts of the Western and Eastern Cape and into KwaZuluNatal. Plants are always found sheltering in the shade on rocky ledges. Flowers profusely from late winter into summer.



Crassula perfoliata var. Minor

This is a rare crassula and has a limited distribution in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains, and Port Elizabeth to Umtata occurring on rocky outcrops and inaccessible cliffs where they are well-protected.



Drosera capensis‘Alba’

Drosera capensis‘Alba’  is covered a sticky mucous for trapping insects. The leaves roll inwards bringing the plants’ digestive glands in contact with the prey and within an hour tentacles on the leaf’s surface further snare it’s prey. The flowers individually open in the morning, closing by mid-afternoon and last just one day.



“I’m still always blown away by these freak flowers,” Filipa Dominques. “More die from too much care and watering than from neglect,” says Filipa of her African plant collection.


Anacampseros arachnoides

Native to South Africa, the botanical name ‘Anacampseros’ is an ancient one for herbs to restore lost love.  The plants are self-fertile and produce seeds in a cup of upright filaments. They can reach 6 inches in height, and are dormant in winter. The flower pods only open when the light is bright enough.



Orbea variegata (speckled flower)

Documented to flower in winter, this one produced a bloom in the middle of summer. “It seems some of them are opportunists,” laughs Filipa who refers to these blooms as “beautiful wanders.” We agree!



Bergaranthus sp. (Yellow flower)

“I love this plant”, says Filipa of this Eastern Cape gem. “The flowers open towards the end of the day when it’s cooling down- and it can flower throughout the year”. The  genus is considered to be in need of taxonomic clarification because species have merged and are difficult to distinguish.




Renaissance Plants, Makopane [email protected]

Kokerboom Nursery, Vanrynsdorp

Ou Tonk, Vanrynsdorp 083 898 9075/ [email protected]


Photography:  Filipa Domingues (Instagram: @checkmyplants)

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