Gasteria glomerata - Cactus Club

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Gasteria glomerata

Plant of the Month > Species G to H

by Bruce Brethauer

    The Gasterias are small to medium sized leaf succulents, which are closely related to the Aloes and Haworthias. All species produce very thick, rigid, succulent leaves which are typically textured with small bumps, “warts”, reticulations, and granular textures.The leaves of most species are frequently spotted in silvery white, or with one or more contrasting tones of green: some plants may bear streaks of whitish variegation, but in cultivated plants, many of which have been selected for their unusual colors, the leaves may be streaked and spotted in whites, yellows, pinks and grays, and may bear multiple green tones as well. I have also seen plants with vivid yellow and red variegations, and in plants which have been grown in particularly bright conditions, produce brick red pigmentations in their foliage. Seedlings and young offsets of virtually all species usually produce their leaves in disthicous fans, in which alternate leaves are produced opposite of one another, but with age and maturity, most species will produce their leaves in spiraling rosettes, and a few species will produce rosettes from the outset. All gasterias will produce offsets from the base of the plant, and many will do so prolifically to produce large mounds containing many plantlets; although a few species will only offset sparingly once the plant is quite mature and well established. Perhaps the most diagnostic trait of Gasterias are its flowers which are tubular, with an inflated, bulbous base, which gives its flowers a stomach-like shape. The name Gasteria (derived from the Latin word “gaster” meaning “stomach”) is a reference to these stomach-shaped flowers. While the individual flowers may be comparatively small, to about an inch to 1.5 inches in length, they are produced in good numbers on long spikes or branching panicles, and are typically bi- or tri-colored, with colors blending from greenish-through buttery yellow, to deep carmine red, so that the overall effect can be quite attractive.

           Even so, most people who grow Gasterias are attracted to their growth habits and attractively marked and textured foliage; the flowers are just the “icing on the cake”. In addition, most people who have grown these plants appreciate their ease of culture, as the Gasterias are amongst the most forgiving and adaptable of all of the succulents, tolerating a wide range of growing conditions and light levels. I have seen plants grown under conditions ranging from deep shade to full sun, and while plants will typically grow better under brighter light, they seem to fare surprisingly well under lower light, making these plants especially suited as houseplants

           Gasteria glomerata is a rather curious species, - it is atypical in that its leaves are not warted, and do not produce the whitish raised bumps which are typical of other species of this genus, instead, plants produce virtually monochromatic leaves which are minutely reticulated, to produce somewhat roughened surfaces. The leaves are highly succulent, rigid, and are very nearly round in cross section. The leaves on my plant have a shape reminiscent of small sausage links, although I have seen photographs of other plants with somewhat shorter leaves. As a younger plant, my own plant produced somewhat shorter leaves, but as it matured, its leaves tended to grow somewhat longer. It is highly prolific, producing multiple offsets practically from the outset: today, my plant probably has several dozen plantlets. Even so, my plant remains fairly compact, and after 3 or 4 years of growth, it fits comfortably in a 12 inch bowl with room to spare. As with most gasterias the rate of growth of this species is rather slow, with each plantlet adding about 1, 2, or 3 leaves each season, and the clump widening about an inch or so with each year's additional offsets.

   The slightly silvery surface of this particular cultivar appears to be due to the presence of a waxy coating on its foliage which can be better detected on the photograph taken when this plant was younger. Handling, and contact with the plant can rub away this waxy coating, revealing a somewhat darker green pigmentation.

       The Following information was taken from

      The terrain of Gasteria glomerata is rugged, inhospitable and the plants occur on sheer, vertical, shady, south-facing rocky ledges (altitude 500-700 m), in minerally poor, slightly acid quartzitic sandstone soils of the Table Mountain Group (Cape Supergroup), with a ph of 6.4. The plants occur in small or larger, dense clusters. The cliff-dwelling habitat of G. glomerata is rich in succulent and succulent bulbous plant species. The vegetation in the region consists of succulent thicket, with Fynbos on the upper slopes. Associated succulent herbs and geophytes in the habitat include Portulacaria afra, Adromischus cristatus var. schonlandii,, Cotyledon tomentosa, C. velutina, Crassula cordata, C. cultrata, C. muscosa var. parvula and Haworthia translucens. Succulent bulbous plants include Cyrtanthus flammosus, C. montanus, C. labiatus, Ornithogalum longibracteatum and Haemanthus albiflos . The climate is hot in summer and mild in winter with no frost. Annual rainfall of 300-400 mm ( approximately 12 to 16 inches) occurs in summer and winter, but there is a tendency to winter dryness. Gasteria glomerata is a rare endemic confined to the lower Kouga River, now part of the Kouga Dam Located near Port Elizabeth in South Africa. Although it is rare, its status is not threatened at all due to its cliff face habitat and it is protected within a reserve. The seed is also dispersed world-wide and the plant is commonly grown in many collections. Its ease of propagation ensures that it is not necessary to collect plants from the wild.

   I really appreciate this plant for its ease of care and its interesting, highly succulent foliage. While it lacks the attractive mottled and splotched foliage of most other Gasteria species, I find that its more uniform,  compact growth, seen especially well in older specimens, more than compensates. It has a modest elegance about it - it is attractive without being so ostentatious.

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