Succulent of the Week - Hoodia gordonii

Wild in Namaqualand! This week's Succulent of the Week was spotted during the third year mapping trip in wild bloom. I haven't blogged about this trip yet, too busy not finishing marking the third year papers, but I'll get around to it one of these days.

This outlandish looking beast is best known for it's overhyped, not FDA-approved popularity as an appetite suppressant. Therefore, it is commonly poached and is now endangered in its native habitat, northwestern South Africa and southern Namibia. Perhaps if it adapted to camouflage better... but where could it hide?

Aha! inside another bush. Those flowers are truly amazing. They do have the stapeliad quality of stinking like dead meat, but they are weird and pale in the bright desert sun with one big, flat, nearly monochrome petal. In the buds before they open, they have the same star-tear drop shape as my little stapeliad in my office.
The long purple pods are the seed pods - these will dry and split and tufted seeds will blow out across the desert. Judging from the locations I saw blooming Hoodia all over the area, it doesn't seem to matter much where they land. They grow in dry sand, cracks in rock, edges of piles of sand, dry rivers, middle of dirt roads gone unused... everywhere. Feel lucky to have seen it in bloom, even if the occasion was presented by the necessity of piling out of the van to push it out of a sand pit.

Oddly enough - just a day after I started working on this post I went to the garden store, and look what I found:
My own little Hoodia! Wonder how long until it makes big pink flowers? Years and years I imagine.

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