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Origin and Habitat: South Africa, Western Cape
Altitude: 800 - 1100 metres above sea level.
Conophytum minimum (Haw.) N.E.Br.
Gard. Chron. III, 71: 307 1922
- Conophytum minimum (Haw.) N.E.Br.
- Conophytum albifissum Tischer
- Conophytum batesii N.E.Br.
- Conophytum brevilineatum Tischer
- Conophytum candelabriforme de Boer
- Conophytum dedicatum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum labyrintheum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum labyrintheum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum leviculum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum leviculum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum notatum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum obmetale (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum obmetale N.E.Br.
- Conophytum parcum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum pauxillum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum pauxillum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum perpusillum (Haw.) N.E.Br.
- Conophytum petraeum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum polulum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum praecinctum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum pusillum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum pusillum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum radiatum Tischer
- Conophytum roseolineatum Tischer
- Conophytum scitulum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum scitulum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum signatum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum signatum N.E.Br.
- Conophytum vagum N.E.Br.
- Mesembryanthemum glebula Schwantes
Description: Conophytum minimum is a dwarf succulent species with great looking tiny bodies marked with few to many reddish dots and lines and scented nocturnal flowers. It is very variable and many names have been applied in the past to various ecotypes. Markings can be quite minimal or in some cases very pronounced such as in the old species Conophytum wittebergense. Growers tend to have indulged in unnatural selection and the best-marked forms are highly prized. It is extremely decorative even without flowers.
Habit: It is a minuscule winter-growing, variably caespitose, perennial leaf-succulent up to 3 cm tall and forms dense mats or cushions with time.
Bodies (paired leaves): Variable bodies, small, tiny, less than 1 cm high and 6 mm in diameter with a small growing cleft that doesn't reach right across the body. The upper surface flat to slightly vaulted, depressed in the centre and with a dark zone surrounding the fissure, which is ciliate.
Colours: Silvery bluish-green and variably suffused with reddish or dark green, variously spotted dark green or purple red, which sometimes join up to make lines and which turn a beautiful dark bright red (almost blackish) during the resting period. The sides often reddish.
Flowers: Abundant nocturnal, small, whitish, strongly scented. The thin petals are white, pale yellow or slightly and form an almost star-like, spidery structure and very showy.
Blooming season: Blooms mostly in autumn (in cultivation in Europe August-November).
Fruits: Hygrochastic capsules.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Conophytum minimum group
- Conophytum labyrintheum (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br.: has the bodies 6-8 mm in diameter with the upper surface more or less flat, and the flowers to 8 mm in diameter.
- Conophytum minimum (Haw.) N.E.Br.: tiny bodies marked with few to many reddish dots and lines and scented nocturnal flowers. It is very variable. Distribution: Western Cape.
- Conophytum praecinctum N.E.Br.: has the bodies 6-8 mm in diameter with the upper surface vaulted and the flowers more than 8 mm in diameter.
- Conophytum vagum N.E.Br.: has the bodies 9-15 mm in diameter.
- Conophytum wittebergense de Boer: has tiny bodies marked with a network of dark red dots and lines on top. Some of those are well-decorated with fantastic red lines. Distribution: Witteberg Mts., Western Cape.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Hammer, S. “The Genus Conophytum - A Conograph.” Succulent Plant Publications, Pretoria.1993
2) Hammer, S. “Dumpling and His Wife: New Views of the Genus Conophytum.” East Anglia Engraving Creative Colour Ltd, Norwich, England. 2002
3) Victor, J.E., “South Africa. In: J.S. Golding (ed.) Southern African Plant Red Data List.” South African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 14. SABONET, Pretoria. 2002
4) Opel, M. “Conophytum leaf structures. In Hammer: Dumpling and His Wife: New Views of the Genus Conophytum.” East Anglia Engraving Creative Colour Ltd, Norwich, England. pp. 300-321. 2002
5) Gard. Chron., ser. 3 71: 307 1922
6) Heidrun E.K. Hartmann “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Aizoaceae A-E” Springer, 2002
7 James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey “The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors” Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug./2011
Cultivation and Propagation: Conophytum minimum is easy to grow, but like most, it will split and crack if overwatered (unsightly but usually not fatal). These plants grow on winter rain and head for summer dormancy. More or less dormant in summer.
Soil: They prefer a very porous potting mix to increase drainage. You can grow a plant in a 6-8 cm pot for years and have perfectly happy plants. For best results, use a shallow pot.
Repotting: Avoid to repot frequently. This plant may stay in the same pot for many years. Plants grown in larger containers have frequently relatively poor flowers. It might improve when the plants are given their own, small individual pots.
Watering: It requires little water; otherwise its epidermis breaks (resulting in unsightly scars). Water throughout the year although minimally in summer, (only when the plant starts shrivelling), but it will generally grow even in summer if given water. Water regularly in winter after the previous year's leaves have dried up. Requires good drainage.
Fertilization: The plants are fertilized only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the recommended strength.
Exposure: Keep cool and shaded from hot sun in mid-summer; it needs full sun or light shade in the other seasons.
Hardiness: Hardy to -2°C. Ensure a very good ventilation.
Pest & diseases: Conophytums are sensitive to mealybugs.
Rot: Rot is only a minor problem with Conophytums if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much. Care must be given in watering, keeping them warm and wet while growing, and cooler and dry when dormant.
Use: It is an excellent potted plant great for windowsill culture as well as in rock gardens. Indoors only in brightest position.
Propagation: It can be reproduced both by cuttings and seeds. Take the cutting from a grown-up mother plant. Each cutting must contain one or more heads, along with a fraction of root.
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