Little Karoo Section in the Conservatory

The Little Karoo is situated in the Western Cape between the Swartberg and Langeberg Mountains. The climate, semi-arid with rainfall in winter and summer, offers a rich center of diversity for succulent plants. The rocks and soil used in the Conservatory display include Enon Conglomerate and Witteberg quartz, which were obtained from local farms near Oudtshoorn and Laingsburg. The natural terrain of this area is hilly and rocky, with quartz gravel flats and hills in the western part.

The vegetation is succulent karoo, part of the Cape Floristic Region. As the name implies, succulent plants dominate in this region, especially the families Mesembryanthemaceae and Crassulaceae. Small trees & shrubs also occur throughout the region including: klapperbos (Nymania capensis), Gwarrie (Euclea undulata), sand-olive ( Dodonaea angustifolia) and karoo boer bean (Schotia afra). Of these, the klapperbos were planted in the the display. The Renosterbos (Elytropappus rhinocerotis) is also common in some regions. Our tree spontaneously sprouted from seed in the soil brought in from the area.


Prominent members of the Mesemb family grown in this section include: haaibekkies (Gibbaeum), volstruisvygie (Glottiphyllum), and kougoed (Sceletium). The Afrikaans vernacular name haaibekkie literally means a shark mouth. There are about 10 different species mainly endemic to the region. The volstruiskos (Glottiphyllum regium) has large, soft, green, cylindric to flat, very juicy leaves. The conspicuous yellow flowers appear during winter and spring. Kougoed (Sceletium) has a spreading stem with soft succulent leaves and white to yellowish flowers. In the past it was fermented and used as a sedative by the local people. The Afrikaans vernacular name kougoed means 'chew things.'


There are also many members of the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae) and the most conspicuous is the botterboom (Tylecodon paniculatus). The plant has a thickset stem and the appearance of a dwarf baobab tree. It has a yellow peeling bark exposing the green stems. It is deciduous during summer. The plant flowers during midsummer when its tubular red flowers appear. They are nectar rich and pollinated by sunbirds.

The succulent spurges (Euphorbia) are also well represented here. The volstruisnek (Euphorbia clandestina) has a single erect warty and cylindric stem. The Afrikaans name volstruisnek literally means 'ostrich neck'.

Another group of plants well represented in the region includes the Aloe family (Aloaceae). The small dwarf aloe (Aloe humilus) becomes conspicuous during flowering time in early spring. The perdetande (Haworthia truncata) has short truncated leaves in an opposite row with only the upper parts exposed. The common name means 'horses' teeth'. It has an elongated inflorescence bearing small flowers which are pollinated by insects. Haworthia retusa is similar but with leaves in a rosette. Haworthia pumila is an aloe-like plant with attractive warty leaves.

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