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Origin and Habitat: Garden origin, man made hand pollinated Huernia hybrid.
Description: Huernia plowesii x zebrina is a man made hand pollinated hybrid involving Huernia plowesii and Huernia zebrina as parents. It is commonly found in cultivation and often incorrectly labelled Huernia plowesii, but this plant clearly shows some interesting intermediate features of both the parents, and the characteristic traits of the owl eyes (Huernia zebrina) clearly shows the hybrid origin of this plant. It is popular in cultivation for its odd blooms with raised, glossy, wine-red ring or 'annulus' around the mouth of the corolla tube. The corolla varies in size and the lobes are cream with large chestnut-brown spots or stripes which vary in size
Habit: It is a low-growing perennial succulent species more or less creeping, occasionally forming mats 2 to 5cm tall and up to 20 cm in diameter (or more).
Stems: Short, erect or ascending, laxly branched, 4-5 angled, acutely toothed and almost pyramidal in shape up to 3-5 cm long, 12 mm in diameter and strongly toothed. Teeth ca. 4,5 mm long.
***Inflorescence:* Single or few-flowered on a 0.5-14 mm long peduncle.
Flowers: The corolla is flat ca. 30-40 mm across with a pentagonal purple-brow tube, ca. 5-7 mm deep, the prominent shiny annulus is glossy purple-brown, marked with few cream-coloured marks on its outer edge, the 5 corolla lobes are acuminate c. 12 x 10 mm, yellowish or cream-coloured with red to purple blotches or cross-zebra-stripes. Frequently the flowers are larger than the plant itself and emit the smell of carrion. The rotting flesh odour attracts flies who transfer the pollen as they search from flower to flower for the non-existent rotting meat.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Huernia plowesii group
- Huernia plowesii L.C.Leach: has purple-brown annulus blotched with yellowish mark on its outer edge. Lobes cream with distant chestnut-brown spots, finely pubescent. Distribution: Tiras Mountains, Namibia.
- Huernia plowesii x zebrina hort.: Is a man made hand pollinated Huernia hybrid involving H. plowesii and H. zebrina. It shows intermediate features between both the parents.
Cultivation and Propagation: Huernia plowesii x zebrina isn't difficult to grow and flower.
Spring: When winter ends and they begin to grow again, they will require much water and soaking the pots will no longer put the plants at risk for rot. In the spring they will grow well in partial shade and leaving them out in the rain may provide them with the water they need.
Summer: In the summer months they will tolerate heavy rain, but will be just as happy if the season is dry. It's best to sort out the stems while the plants are resting in the summer before they begin their autumnal growth cycle. They will tolerate very hot weather outdoors as long as they are kept in filtered light and this will encourage them to flower in the Autumn. They also enjoy some fertiliser. Moving the plants as they are developing buds may cause them to spontaneously abort the flowers all together.
Autumn: In the fall keep them outdoors until the night time temperatures drop below the 10°C.
Winter: Winter care presents no problems at 10° C with plenty of light. As soon as they are flowered be sure to take extra precautions to keep them dry, because damp cool conditions when the plants are resting is an invitation to fungal infections, but - according to temperatures –some occasional lit watering may be useful.
Potting medium: Since roots are quite shallow, use a cactus mix or add extra perlite or pumice to regular soil potting soil. A gritty, very free-draining compost is suitable, and clay pots help the plants to dry out between watering. Re-pot every 2 years.
Pest and diseases: Huernia are generally fairly easy to grow, especially if kept pest-free. They are very susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs, and damage from these may well initiate fungal attack. Any time when there is a dead or dying stem in the pot it is important to remove it immediately and completely before other healthy stems can become ill too, isolate the healthy parts, dry them off, and re-root them in new compost.
Propagation: Easiest with stem cuttings. Allow cuttings to dry a day before planting. Stems must be laid (Not buried) on gritty compost and will then root from the underside of the stems. It can also be increased from seeds sowing in spring in moist, sandy peat moss. Barely cover seeds. Seeds germinate quickly.
In any season it's best to lay the stems out for several days before replanting them and then pot them only in dry soil and withhold any water until they begin to shrivel or start growing again.
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