Kalanchoe waterbergensis Van Jaarsv.
Common names: Waterberg Kalanchoe (Eng.); Waterbergplakkie (Afr.)
A rare, dwarf leaf-succulent from the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province. The flat, broadly egg-shaped, bluish leaves are crowded at the base before flowering and the flowers are orange-red, in autumn. Easily grown and best for bushveld gardens or in containers, in dappled shade.
Fig. 1. Illustration of Kalanchoe waterbergensis (type plant) by Marieta Visagie.
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is a sparingly branched, short-lived, leaf succulent up to 500 mm tall when in flower. The flowering branch dies after flowering. The roots are fibrous. The branches are cylindrical (terete), about 4 mm in diameter and grey-green. The leaves pointing upwards (ascending), in opposite pairs (decussate), initially crowded at the base; the basal leaves overlapping and both pairs almost oriented on one plane (sub-distichous). The leaves are 45-50 × 26-28 mm, the leaf blade flat, broadly egg shaped (ovate to obovate),the base of the leaves wedge shaped (cuneate) with a little ear-like appendage (auriculate)at the base. The surface is pale greyish to purplish green, due to a powdery bloom, and beset with minute purplish dots. The leaf margin yellowish and entire. The leaf tip tapers to a point (acute to subacute) ending in a little point (mucronate). The inflorescence is ascending, up to about 450 mm high, branched, flat-topped to rounded, the leaves becoming smaller and narrower upwards. The calyx lobes, are linear triangular, 4-7 × 1 mm. The corolla is orange-red urn shaped, the floral tube bulging at the base for 7-8 mm then tubular for 6-7 mm long, on ascending pedicles 3-10 mm long. The floral lobes are spear-shaped (lanceolate) becoming horizontally spreading, 5-6 × 2.5 mm long, the lobe tips ending in a sharp point. The 8 anthers are in two whorls, 0.3-0.4 mm, fused to the corolla tube just above the middle. The carpels 4.7 × 2 mm, tapering into erect styles with terminal stigmas. The seed is oblong, slightly flattened and curved with distinct vertical ridges, 0.4 × 0.2 mm. Flowering is mainly in late summer and autumn (April, southern Hemisphere).
Fig. 2. A close-up of the basal leaves of a Kalanchoe waterbergensis plant in habitat at Renosterpoort. Note the ear-like (auriculated) leaf base.
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is not threatened. Parts of its distribution fall within in a reserve where it is well protected and consequently it is assessed as Least Concern (LC) (Smith et al. 2022).
Fig. 3. Waterberg Mountain Bushveld at Renosterpoort, habitat of Kalanchoe waterbergensis. Plants grow in gravelly quarzitic sandstone soil.
Distribution and habitat
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is only known from the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The vegetation of the Waterberg consists of Waterberg Mountain Bushveld and Central Sandy Bushveld (Central Bushveld Bioregion) of the Savannah Biome (Mucina et al 2006). Kalanchoe waterbergensis grows in Waterberg Mountain Bushveld which consists of a rocky, deciduous, open woodland with Terminalia sericea and Burkea africana and species of Combretum so typical of acidic sandy parts of the region. The geology is sedimentary consisting of rough quarzitic sandstones and conglomerate of the Alma Formation of the Waterberg Group (Mokolian Erathem). Plants grow at altitudes of about 500 to 1 300 m above sea level. The climate is subtropical, with warm summers and cooler, sunny winters with the occasional light frosts during the night. Rainfall in the habitat is mainly in summer and ranges between 500-800 mm per annum, mainly as thunder showers.
Kalanchoe waterbergensis grows in shallow rocky pockets and crevices on rocky sheets covered with gravel, the soil is mineral-poor and slightly acidic. It is locally abundant under trees. The plants at the Jan Trichardt Pass grow in dappled shade of bushveld trees and shrubs at an altitude of about 1 200 m above sea level. The associated plants in the habitat include Englerophytum magalismontanum, Brachylaena transvaalensis, Cyphostemma woodii, Mundulea sericea, Maytenus undata, Pellaea calomelanos, Vangueria infausta and a species of Ledebouria.
Fig. 4. Kalanchoe waterbergensis in flower in its native habitat, at Renosterpoort, Waterberg.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Kalanchoe waterbergensis was named by the author in 2017 in Bradleya, the yearbook of the British Cactus and Succulent Society, from plants collected in March 1996 on the Jan Trichardt Pass in the Waterberg, Limpopo Province of South Africa. It is named for its type locality, the Waterberg Mountain Range. It has been grown at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and at Babylonstoren Farm, and when plants came into flower in April 2017, it was illustrated by botanical artist, Marieta Visagie.
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is one of 7 species of Kalanchoe which have been recorded from the Waterberg (Wadley et. al. 2021). The other species are the widespread K. rotundifolia, K. lanceolata, K. paniculata, K. luciae, K. thyrsiflora and K. sexangulare. About 20 species of Kalanchoe have been recorded from southern Africa, mainly from the summer rainfall region. Kalanchoe waterbergensis comes closest to K. rotundifolia, which also grows commonly along the flats, but is immediately distinguished by the earlike (auriculate) base of the lower leaves.
Fig. 5. Kalanchoe waterbergensis in habitat at Renosterpoort, Waterberg.
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is a relatively short-lived perennial leaf-succulent. The plants grow in shallow, gravelly soil, often on bedrock, where there is little competition from non-succulent plants. The succulent nature enables the plant to survive the dry winter months. The powdery bloom assists with heat regulation and water conservation by reflecting the sunlight. During dry conditions, the greyish green leaves become purplish green. The bright reddish, tubular flowers are produced far above the leaf canopy, making them visible to butterflies which are the main pollinators. The capsules ripen during winter and the seeds are dispersed by wind. The seeds are small and ideal for establishment in gravel and rock crevices.
No medicinal or cultural uses have been recorded.
Fig. 6. Kalanchoe waterbergensis in habitat at Renosterpoort, Waterberg.
Growing Kalanchoe waterbergensis
Kalanchoe waterbergensis is easily grown, best as a pot plant in regions outside of its natural habitat. It grows best in dappled shade. Plants respond rapidly to watering, in spring, soon becoming turgid. Grow plants in well-drained soil, a mixture of 2 parts sand, 1 part loam and 1 part compost is recommended. Keep in dappled shade. Avoid over watering. Fertilize plants with an organic fertiliser in spring and summer. Its easy growing nature maximises its survival rate. In regions outside of its habitat ceramic containers are the solution. It also grows well with miniature succulent plants.
Plants are easily propagated from side shoots; best to take these cuttings in spring or summer.
Sow seed in spring or summer, in a shallow tray, in a sandy mixture and keep moist. Germination is within 3 weeks and when the seedlings are large enough to handle, transfer them to individual containers. Place containers in a shady position but with full light.
Plants are relatively pest free, but aphids, wine weevils, slugs and snails can sometimes be a problem.
- Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds) 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Smith, G.F., Figueiredo, E. & Oberlander, K. 2022. A review and update of the conservation status of Kalanchoe species (Crassulaceae subfam. Kalanchooideae) in the Flora of Southern Africa region. Bradleya special: 181-193.
- Toelken, H.R. 1985. Crassulaceae. Flora of Southern Africa 14: 1–229.
- Van Jaarsveld, E. J. 2017. Kalanchoe waterbergensis, a new Kalanchoe species from the Waterberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Bradleya 35: 166–170.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2010. Waterwise gardening in South Africa and Namibia. Struik, Cape Town.
- Wadley, L., Willemse, L., Baytopp, K., Swart, J., Heymans, J. Tarboton, W. & Tarboton, M. 2021. Wild Flowers of the Waterberg. Mapula Trust.
- Waterberg BioQuest/BioSoektog, Limpopo, South Africa, Kalanchoe waterbergensis. http://www.waterberg-bioquest.co.za/Flower%20spp%20pgs/kal_wate.html. Accessed 26 Dec. 2022.
Ernst van Jaarsveld
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Retired 2015)
Extraordinary senior lecturer and researcher,
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation, University of the Western Cape
Acknowledgements: the author thanks Marieta Visagie for the illustration and Ntuthuko Mabuya, Liudmila Ozerova and Claudia Guerredo for assistance in the field.
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Limpopo
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Autumn
Flower colour: Red, Orange
Aspect: Shade, Morning Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy