An unusual milkweed relative

Monday, April 28, 2014

Deceptively cute, the lifesaver cactus is a member of the milkweed family that just happens to be a succulent from South Africa: Huernia reticulata. At a Saturday flea market in Winter Park, the little plant called out to us: sure enough, a ring in the center of the flower is the size and shape of a Life Saver, albeit maroon colored. The ring is called an anulus and is part of the corolla that surrounds the gynostegium buried inside. The what? A fusion of the stamens, style and stigmatic surfaces. The structure is common to the milkweed family. Look at milkweeds and hoyas as well as stapelias to find it.

Inside the bell-shaped tube formed by the corolla and anulus, there are hairs and a fly-attracting stink common to stapelias. (This plant once was called Stapelia reticulata.)


Growing in cactus mix, our Huernia reticulata gets morning sun and very small amounts of water. This group of plants grows among rocks, and overwatering is a danger.