Hoodia flava (N.E.Br.) Plowes
Common names: yellow-flowered ghaap (Eng.); soetghaap (Afr.)
Hoodia flava is an indigenous shrublet of southern Africa that is popularly used amongst the Khoi-San people as a hunger and appetite suppressant.
Hoodia flava is a compact, leafless succulent, with thick cylindrical stems all arising from the ground. Stems are grey-green, 3 to many, and grow up to 500 mm high and 20–70 mm wide. Stems bear rows of 18–31 spines and bright yellow flowers in the upper half.
Flowers are small and measure up to 12 mm in diameter. They are arranged in groups of 1 to 3 on short pedicels that are 0.3–1.0 mm high. Fruits are paired follicles, 75–180 mm long, with numerous seeds.
Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Hoodia flava occurs in the arid regions of the Western and Northern Cape Provinces, including the area popularly known as Bushmanland. The distribution of the plant stretches from Prince Albert to Kenhardt. The plants grow in small bushes and rocky outcrops.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Hoodia was named in 1830 after succulent plant enthusiast Van Hood. The species name flava is derived from Latin and means ‘yellow’, referring to the flowers.
The flowers of Hoodia flava produce a strong scent of rotting meat that attracts flies to the plant. Flies pollinate the plant as they move in and out of the flower. Plants start flowering from the age of 2–4 years and produce flowers all year round.
Hoodia flava is one of the most valued plants amongst the Khoi-San people. It is eaten as a raw food during drought to help suppress hunger and thirst. A stone is used to scrap the thorns off the stem, and the fleshy parts are consumed. The plant is also used to give tobacco a sweet liquorish flavour.
Growing Hoodia flava
Cultivation of Hoodia flava is challenging, as the plant is intolerant of humidity, low temperatures and excess water. Propagation is best achieved by sowing seeds into seed pans with permeable sandy loam soil and small amounts of compost. Seed should not be crowded nor sown deeper than 5 mm.
Seedlings should be transplanted into small plastic pots filled with a well-drained potting medium. Plants should not be over-watered. They should only be watered a few times per week when the soil is completely dry. In winter, plants should be placed in a warm area or on a south-facing windowsill and watered after every two weeks.
- Bruyns, P.V. 1993. New combination of Hoodia and Lavrania. South African Journal of Botany 59(3): 342.
- Van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's plants . Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Victor, J.E. 2005. Hoodia flava (N.E.Br.) Plowes. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/02/01
- Wynberg, R. 2004. Rhetoric, realism and benefit‐sharing. The Journal of World Intellectual Property 7(6): 851–876.
- Wynberg, R., Schroeder, D & Chennells, R. 2009. Indigenous peoples, consent and benefit sharing: lessons from the San-Hoodia case. Springer, London and New York.
- Photographs courtesy of Martin Heigan shared via flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/martin_heigan/335609694/in/photostream/ accessed Nov 2015
National Herbarium, Pretoria
Plant Type: Shrub, Succulent
SA Distribution: Northern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Sporadic/All year
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Challenging