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Origin and Habitat: Brachystelma nanum is endemic to South Africa from the northern Orange Free State, into southern Transvaal, extending northwards to Rustenburg and Middelburg.
Habitat and ecology: This species is sometimes locally common in various habitats over the Central, South Western and Western Transvaal, mostly in sand-filled pockets on slabs of exposed rocks, or at their edges in close association with Anacampseros subnudum and Haworthia mcmurtryi and on stony ground on low hillocks together with Chortolirion angolensis. Near Middelburg (where plants with the largest flowers are found), the species is abundant on rocky hill tops, usually in close association with Eurphorbia psudotuberosa. The plants begin their growth with the start of warmer weather in sping (late August and September). The population trend is stable.
Brachystelma nanum (Schltr.) N.E.Br.
Fl. Cap. (Harvey) 4(1,5): 848. 1908 [Mar 1908]
- Brachystelma nanum (Schltr.) N.E.Br.
- Lasiostelma nanum Schltr.
- Brachystelma angustum Peckover
- Brachystelma dyeri K.Balkwill, M.Balkwill & Cadman
Description: Brachystelma nanum is a pigmy-sized perennial herb with generally glabrous annual stems to 12 cm long, growing from a slightly depressed tuber (caudex). The leaves are narrowly elliptical, short-stalked often with a sparse ciliation on the margins. The elegant flowers appears in group of 1-3 at the nodes. The corolla has a bowl-shaped tube, with slender perianth lobes stellate or partly cage-like, mainly pale pink to whitish, partly with green dots with green tips, bent in-wards.
Derivation of specific name: 'nanum' from the Greek, nanos (a dwarf).
Tuber (caudex): Stout, globose, more or less flattened, 2-5 cm in diameter, mostly underground often with slightly bowl-shaped central area.
Stem: Aerial shoot few to several, slender, branching from the base up to 2 - 12 cm high, glabrous or partly covered with exceedingly minute recurved hairs, apparently reddish-brown.
Leaves: Spreading or ascending, arranged in an alternate or opposite position, 9-25 mm long, 1.5-7 mm wide, linear-elliptic or linear-lanceolate, acute, tapering into a short petiole, flat or slightly convex above, with revolute or thickened (sometimes slightly crisped) margins and a prominent midrib beneath, sometimes recurved or revolute at the tips, occasionally twisted, glabrous, often with a sparse ciliation of very minute adpressed hairs on the margins.
Flowers: In 1–3-flowered inflorescences at the nodes, very small. Pedicels 1.5-14 mm long, with minute hairs, as on the stems. Sepals about 1-3 mm long, lanceolate, acuminate, glabrous to sparsely ciliate. Corolla 9-14 mm in diametr, or 5-7 mm long, stellate or cage-like, whitish to rose-coloured, partly with green dots. Corolla-tube about 1 mm long, bowl-shaped. Corolla lobes free, but sometimes connate at the tips, 2.5-6.5 mm long, 1.5-2 mm broad at the base, thence gradually tapering to the acute apex or in some flowers ovate or ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, apparently thickened and incurved-hooked at the tips, below which the margins are inflexed, forming a slight constriction, glabrous on both sides, not ciliate, pinkish or whitish, tips greenish, bent in-wards. Corons sessile, approximately 2 x 2 mm, white with red or green spots, basally united cup-like. Outer corona-lobes arising 0.5 mm up the staminal column and much overtopping (or perhaps incurved over) it, 0.75-1 mm long, deeply divided nearly to the base into 2 slender linear-subulate acute or obtuse segments. Inner corona-lobes about 0.5 mm long, slenderly linear, incumbent upon the backs of the anthers or erect and with reflexed tips, glabrous. Staminal column 1 mm long. Pollinia globose, 0.2 - 0.3 mm in diameter, with amber inner margin, shortly attached by caudicles to winged carrier.
Blooming season: Spring (November-March).
Fruits (follicles): One or two follicles per flower, subfusiform, divergent-erect, 3-5 cm long, 3-4 mm thick, linear-terete, tapering at the base and into a beak at the apex, smooth, glabrous.
Seeds: 6-7 mm long, 2-3 mm broad, linear-oblong with the margins much inflexed on one side, broadly margined, smooth, dark brown, with a tuft of rather short hairs at the apex.
Note: Brachystelma dyeri is only separable on the base of the corona with a hairy inside and the longer inner corona segments. In general, the overlap in characters is such that B. dyeri can at most be recognized as variety. Brachystelma nanum is also similar to Brachystelma occidentale but their distribution areas widely separated. The corolla of B. occidentale is yellowish with wine-red spots, whereas in B. nanum it is pinkish with dark green tips.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) N. E. Brown “Flora Capensis”, Vol 4, 1909
2) Matlamela, P.F. & Kamundi, D.A. 2006. “Brachystelma nanum (Schltr.) N.E.Br.” National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/01/16
3) J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa”, 2003 Bihrmann's Caudiciforms contributors Brachystelma nanum <http://www.bihrmann.com/caudiciforms/subs/bra-nan-sub.asp> Web. 16 January 2016
4) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae: Asclepiadaceae”, Volume 4 Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
5) Brachystelma nanum in: “Excelsa” Aloe, Cactus and Succulent Society of Rhodesia, 1988
6) Gerrit Germishuizen “Transvaal Wild Flowers” Macmillan South Africa (Publishers), 1982
Brachystelma nanum Photo by: Sándor Horváth
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Cultivation and Propagation: Brachystelma nanum is hardy in cultivation.
Soil: It grows best in deep earthenware pots in a very draining but rich soil. An error in cultivation may produce unsightly holes in the tuber.
Exposure: In cultivation the plants are usually grown in semi shade, with the tubers wholly or (preferably) partially exposed to prevent scorching and rotting of the roots. When the plants are kept in half a day's sunlight their natural compact habit is maintained, a characteristic feature of most plants in habitat
Hardiness: It should be overwintered in the greenhouse at temperatures over 12°C (avoid letting temperatures drop lower than 5° C).
Water requirements: This plant can take a good deal of water during active growth and should be watered only when not dormant. Keep dryish in winter.
Reproduction: This species can be reproduced by seeds.
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