For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bushman’s Candle (Sarcocaulon crassicaule)

 Family Geraniaceae
Sarcocaulon is a genus of succulent, spiny shrublets with short stems, branching just above soil level. The fleshy branches are prostrate, semi-erect or erect, covered with waxy, translucent bark.
Dimorphic (two forms) leaves characterize the genus, with the blades either long or shortly petioled. The long petioles occur singly and remain as blunt or sharp spines, the short ones occur singly or in groups of 2-7 in the axils of the long spines as blunt stalks. The leaf blades are often folded, unsegmented or segmented, vary in outline from elliptic to ovate to obovate (egg-shaped with the broadest part above) with the bases usually tapered, the tips are notched and the margins entire, lobed or toothed.
The flowers, subtended by 2 bracts, appear solitary in the axils of the leaves. They are pedunculate (stalked), 5-merous with the sepals of the calyx and the petals free. The margins of the sepals are membranous and the tips end abruptly in a short, stiff point. The thin, delicate petals are inversely egg-shaped (obovate) to almost squared off (subtruncate) at the tips and wedge-shaped at the bases, usually glabrous, sometimes covered with soft, short, erect hairs or fringed with hairs along the edge. Fifteen stamens, 5 with long filaments and 10 with shorter filaments are characteristic of Sarcocaulon.
Members of the Geraniaceae family, have a peculiar dry fruit with the carpels much elongated. At maturity only the inner parts of the united carpels remain as a central column, whereas the outer part of each carpel, enclosing one seed at the base, lifts off. In Sarcocaulon the seeds and the sterile upper part of the carpel become completely detached. The tail is thin, readily absorbs moisture (hygroscopic), and has long weak hairs (villous).
Members of the genus Sarcocaulon are spiny, fleshy shrublets with delicate white, yellow, salmon-pink or pink petals ('flowers'), confined to South Africa and Namibia. The name Sarcocaulon alludes to the Greek words for fleshy, sarkos, and stems, caulon.
The Geraniaceae family is widely distributed and consists of mainly annual or perennial herbs and shrublets, comprising about 700 species. Members of Sarcocaulon are mainly found in the western part of South Africa and Namibia (see map). The most widespread species is S. salmoniflorum, and S. vanderietiae is the species with the most easterly distribution. One species, S. mossamedense, also occurs in Angola.

Species of Sarcocaulon occur in regions where dry climatic conditions prevail, and are found on rocky hillsides or mountainsides, gravel, outcrops of weathered quartzite and red dune sands. S. patersonii, for example, inhabits the extremely arid desert area between Port Nolloth and Lüderitz.
Economic and cultural value
Members of the family Geraniaceae have long been widely cultivated for their horticultural value. Members of Sarcocaulon are much sought after by succulent lovers! The fleshy branches, covered with wax, are flammable and can even when wet be used as a kindling to light fires.