Kleinia venteri Van Jaarsv.
Common names: Venter’s kleinia (Eng.); uitlopertjie (Afr.)
An unusual, cryptic, stoloniferous succulent up to 70 mm high, with flat, oblong, rolled back, succulent leaves and inconspicuous flowers in winter. This is a very rare species, known only from the Polokwane District of the Limpopo Province, growing on flat to hilly open terrain in savanna vegetation.
Fig. 1. Kleinia venteri, a close-up of a plant and flower head (capitula) (left) and a close-up of a plant in fruit (bearing 3 capitula) (right).
Kleinia venteri is a stoloniferous, winter-deciduous, succulent geophyte, forming a subterranean network of white, succulent stems (stolons) about 13–19 mm in diameter (sometimes fusiform) and up to 300 mm long. Roots fibrous. The aerial branches are ascending, 30–120 mm long and 3–11 mm in diameter, articulated where the side shoots join, green and covered with a pale powdery bloom. The leaves have a short petiole, 1–3 mm long, ascending, alternate, crowded at the branch ends, varying from linear to lanceolate, 15–35 mm long, 5–12 mm broad, green to glaucous, becoming purplish under stress, the leaf tip acute, the base wedge-shaped, with the margins entire, strongly rolled back (less so nor not in cultivated specimens) and somewhat undulating, the midrib slightly raised on lower surface and the veining indistinct. Older leaves withering and becoming deciduous in the dry season.
Fig. 2. Kleinia venteri in habitat on a street pavement in summer at Fauna Park, Polokwane (Limpopo Province, South Africa).
The homogamous flower heads (capitula) are usually solitary, but also as many as 3, are produced at the ends of the branches, ascending to ascending spreading, up to 25–70 mm high from the level of the soil surface, cylindrical-oblong, 20–23 mm long, 6.5 mm in diameter; receptacle flat; phyllaries 8, triangular to triangular-lanceolate; the flower stalk (peduncle) 15–20 mm long. The bracts few, linear-lanceolate to linear, 2–3 mm long, ascending; the involucral bracts 6–8 fused at first, linear-lanceolate, in a single row, 15–17 × 3–4 mm; florets bisexual, corolla white to light orange, tubular, 20 × 1 mm, the lobes 5, 1.2 mm long. Style and stigma green. Achene 6.0 × 1.3 mm. Flowering is in mid-winter (July).
Fig. 3. Kleinia venteri, in fruit, growing among grass, in winter.
Rare and only known from 2 isolated sites, the one a suburban pavement and park. Although it is not included in the Red List of South African Plants, it is rare and threatened in the Polokwane (Pietersburg) suburban region, and, therefore, the status should be Vulnerable (VU).
Fig. 4. Kleinia venteri, habitat in winter; plants grow among grass in full sun or dappled shade below trees or shrubs in savanna.
Distribution and habitat
Kleinia venteri is confined to the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Only known from 2 sites, the one in Fauna Park, a suburb of Polokwane (Pietersburg) and the other at Loskop, northwest of Polokwane. Plants grow in Polokwane Plateau Bushveld in an open grassy Acacia caffra and A. tortilis savanna, at an altitude of about 1 300–1 500 m above sea level. The habitat consists of flat to hilly terrain of weathered granites giving rise to a sandy-loam soil. They grow in full sun or in dappled shade below acacia trees. The geology consists of the Archaean Hout River Gneiss and Turfloop Granite. The climate is subtropical with summer rainfall (mainly thunder showers), and dry winters (May to September) and light frost early mornings in winter. The rainfall is about 400–500 mm per annum. The average summer maximum temperature is about 33ºC.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Kleinia (Senecioineae) as a genus was founded by Linnaeus in 1737 in his Genera plantarum, and named for the German zoologist Jacob Theodor Klein (1685–1751) from Danzig, Germany. He grew a rare plant collection at his home (Clarke & Charters 2016). The species is named after Fanie Venter, botanist, ecologist and intrepid explorer from Cairns, Australia. He is an ex-South African, formerly from the University of the North. Fanie has made a considerable contribution to the flora of the Limpopo Province. He has collected several species new to science. Plectranthus venteri and Ledebouria venteri were also named after him. Kleinia venteri was named in his honour in 2005 in Aloe, the magazine of the South African Succulent Society. Fanie arranged the Blouberg Botanical Expedition in the Limpopo Province in 1992, in which many young botanists in South Africa took part (Van Jaarsveld 1992). It was on this expedition that Kleinia venteri was first noticed in an open field opposite the guest house in Fauna Park, Polokwane (Pietersburg), in which Fanie arranged for us to stay. Plants were found growing in small groups below acacia trees. Also on our way to the Blouberg we briefly stopped at Loskop, the other site where plants were also noticed.
Kleinia venteri represents one of 8 southern African Kleinia species, and is a true geophyte. The others include: Kleinia cephalophora, K. chimanimaniensis, K. fulgens, K. galpinii, K. garciana, K. longiflora and K. stapeliiformis. Of these K. chimanimaniensis, K. fulgens and K. galpinii are closely related, bearing conspicuous nodding orange flowers (yellow in K. chimanimaniensis) often from a stoloniferous, tuberous, sprouting rootstock. K. galpinii is at once distinguished by its pale leaves (covered with a powdery bloom) crowded in a rosette towards the end of the branches. It is only known from cliffs of the Drakensberg, close to Barberton in Mpumalanga. K. fulgens grows widespread in savanna from KwZulu-Natal to the Limpopo Province and today most commonly grown in gardens in South Africa. K. chimanimaniensis resembles K. galpinii but the leaves are not crowded towards the ends of the branches and it bears yellow flowers (Van Jaarsveld 2015). K. stapeliiformis is stoloniferous with angular succulent stems resembling the genus Stapelia (hence the species name). Kleinia venteri is probably most closely related to K. longiflora (Smith et al. 2001).
According to Halliday (1988) and Herman & Condy (2001), diagnostic characteristics of Kleinia include the succulent nature of the plant, as well as the compound drusiform crystals in the ovary walls and the style branches with conical to elongated appendages. The genus Kleinia consists of about 40 species, which grow in Africa, Madagascar and India, with the greatest diversity in Africa.
Kleinia venteri grows on sandy and gravelly plains amongst various grass and herbaceous plant species. Fires are common in this region, and, K. venteri with its subterranean network of succulent stems, is well adapted to survive them, simply by re-sprouting in spring or summer. The succulent leaves and stems enable the plant to grow in a seasonally dry climate. At Fauna Park Kleinia venteri was observed growing with the following plants: Themeda triandra, Aristida congesta, Cymbopogon excavatum and Melinus repens. Smaller, other species include Emilia transvaalensis, Gnidia kraussiana var. kraussiana, Hirpicium bechuanense, Hilliardiella oligocephala and Ziziphus zeyheriana. Associated succulents and geophytes include: Aloe marlothii and A. zebrina, Bulbine capitata, Crassula capitella subsp. nodulosa, Jatropha zeyheri, Plectranthus neochilus and Raphionacme velutina.
The whitish tubular flowers within the flower head suggest pollination by an insect. The downy seeds are dispersed by wind and seed under favourable conditions, will germinate.
Fig. 5. Kleinia venteri stolons of a container grown plant.
It is not known whether the plants are used medicinally.
Fig. 6. Kleinia venteri, a container grown in cultivation at Babylonstoren Farm, Western Cape.
Growing Kleinia venteri
Kleinia venteri is a rare endemic that is not well known in cultivation. However, it is easily cultivated in a savanna climate and thus best suited for bushveld gardens (Van Jaarsveld 2010). They are frost hardy. Propagate by stem cuttings or stolons of 5–10 cm length. Plant in a sandy or gravely soil and keep moist. Stems root soon. Its stoloniferous nature eventually results in a network of stems. The stolons can also be planted in situ, and root rapidly. Best time to propagate is in spring or summer. Alternatively plant stolons shallowly, directly into the soil, in a well-drained place such as a rockery. Roots are sometimes affected by mealybug. Treat when necessary. Plants also grow well in containers. Provide soil with sufficient drainage. They are prone to rust and can be treated when necessary. K. venteri is an interesting species best grown by the succulent plant connoisseur. During winter months plants lose their leaves and becomes dormant.
- Clarke, H. & Charters, M. 2016. The illustrated dictionary of southern African plant names. Flora & Fauna Publications Trust, Jacana, Johannesburg.
- Halliday, P. 1988. Noteworthy species of Kleinia. In Hooker’s Icones Plantarum, Vol. 39, part 4: 1–135.
- Herman, P.P.J. & Condy, G. 2001. Kleinia galpinii. Flowering Plants of Africa 57: 92–95.
- Linnaeus, C. 1737. Genera plantarum. Salvius, Stokholm.
- Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds) 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Rowley, G.D. 1994. Succulent compositae. A grower’s guide to the succulent species of Senecio & Othonna. Strawberry Press, California.
- Smith, G.F., Steyn, E.M.A., Crouch, N.R. & Condy, G. 2001. Kleinia longiflora. Flowering Plants of Africa 57: 96–102.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 1992. The Blouberg botanical expedition, with specific reference to the succulent vegetation plants. Aloe 28(3,4): 78–83.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2005. Kleinia venteri, a new succulent species from Limpopo Province (South Africa). Aloe 42(1,2): 12.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2010. Water wise gardening. Struik, Cape Town.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2015. Kleinia chimanimaniensis, a new cliff-dwelling succulent species from eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique. Bradleya 33: 121–127.
Ernst van Jaarsveld
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Retired 2015)
Extraordinary senior lecturer and researcher,
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation, University of the Western Cape
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Limpopo
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: White, Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy