Life Saver plant?

unopened flower bud

Unopened flower bud of the Life Saver plant

Huernia zebrina, commonly known as the Life Saver plant, is found in the Apocynaceae family, and subfamily Asclepiadoideae.  The Tucker greenhouse currently has a species of Huernia blooming in the succulent room on the west bench.  The flower literally looks like a Life Saver mint.  Huernia is a succulent plant native to the arid regions of eastern and south Africa.  This genus is closely related to the genus Stapelia (carrion flowers).  The flowers of Huernia emit the scent of rotting meat or carrion, thereby attracting carrion flies who’ll inadvertently pollinate the flowers.  The genus Huernia is named for Justin Heurnius (1587-1652), a Dutch missionary who may have been an early collector of these plants.  Check out the photo below and see if you think this flower could be mistaken for a Life Saver.

star-shaped flower

Opened flower of Huernia zebrina (Apocynaceae family)











Desert room color

The Tucker Greenhouse is home to several species of Aloe plants from arid regions around the world.  I just spied a tall racemose inflorescence (an inflorescence of pedicellate flowers, maturing from the bottom upward) just beginning to open its flowers.  I even pulled off a couple of the lower flowers in order to take a close-up shot.

aloe plant in bloom

Aloe sp. just beginning to bloom in the desert room

aloe flowers

Close-up of lower flowers of the Aloe inflorescence

aloe flower close-up

Close-up of an individual Aloe flower

Another type of inflorescence blooming right now in the desert room is found within the Euphorbiaceae family. This inflorescence is called a cyathium.  Look closely at the tiny flowers in the center.  The reddish, pink petal-like organs surrounding the cyathium are called bracts.  Their purpose is to attract pollinators.  The common Poinsettia is a member of this same plant family.  The actual Poinsettia flower is a cyathium found in the center of all of the surrounding red bracts.

Euphorbia flowers-pink

Euphorbia milii or known by its common name Crown of Thorns (Euphorbiaceae family)

The desert room is the home of many plants originally from the mountains of northern Mexico.  The small tree Jaquinia pungens is now in full bloom.  It is known by the common name Cudjoewood, and is found in the Theophrastaceae family.  The dime-size, red flowers are very pungent.

image of small red flower

Jaquinia pungens (Theophrastaceae family)

Finally, a Kalanchoe plant has also begun blooming in the desert room this week.  This plant is a member of the succulent plant family, Crassulaceae.

image of an orange flower

Kalanchoe velutina (Crassulaceae family)