Gasteria batesiana Rowley
Top: Gasteria batesiana. Bottom: Gasteria batesiana Barberton
Growth Habits: Gasteria batesiana is a relatively small species bearing rough tuberculata brittle leaves. It is at once recognized by its small rosettes of triangular-lanceolate leaves often with transverse mottled cross bands, a simple inflorescence of large nectar-rich flowers. The plant soon proliferates from the base forming small groups. The young leaves are initially in two opposite rows (distichous) becoming rosulate, 50-180 X 15-40 mm, of a firm, but brittle texture. The shape is triangular or triangular-lanceolate or rarely linear. Both surfaces are dark green with dense white spots arranged in transverse bands and distinctly densely tuberculate,
Scientific name: Gasteria batesiana
Common names: Knoppies-beestong.
Etymology: The generic name for Gasteria was established in 1809 by Duval. It is derived from the Greek word gaster meaning belly and refers to the swollen base of the flowers, which makes them belly shaped.
Origin: South Africa and southern Namibia
Light: This plant, as with most Gasteria prefers a slightly shady spot where it will give of its best.
Compost: Use a compost that is rich in humus and not too acidic, so perhaps a peat based one is not a good idea.
Water: The plant will accept normal quantities of water in summer, without coming to any harm, as long as the compost is well drained.
Flower: The plant flowers from October to December, but my own plants do not follow their southern hemisphere flowering time and usually flower mid-summer. The inflorescence is a simple ascending spreading raceme (rarely branched) 300-450 mm long. The flower stalk or pedicel is drooping and 9 mm long. The tubular flowers (perianth) are 35-40mm long, the base slightly swollen.
Fruit: In cultivation Gasterias must usually be cross pollinated to produce seed. Capsules soon abort when not pollinated. The capsule is a smooth, green pod.
Min. temp: Most books tell you the plant will stand temperatures down to 30° F (-1°C) but I would not like to risk my plants at that temperature. I never keep them lower than 45°F (8°C)
Cultivation: Not a difficult plant to grow. It can be propagated from either seed or if you are looking for quicker results leaf cuttings.
Habitat: Gasteria batesiana has the most northerly distribution of the whole of the genus, occurring east of the inland escarpment from north of the Tukhela (Tugela) River in northern KwaZulu-Natal to the Olifants River Valley in the Limpopo Province . It is found in bushveld (savannah) at elevations from 500 to 700 m, in hot, dry, frost free river valleys in mountainous terrain and the plants are mostly confined to cliff faces. Its habitat consists of shady southern and eastern aspects where it occurs in shallow humus-rich soil that is slightly alkaline in its chemical content.
Comments: This is my favourite Gasteria without any question at all. Many would say that it is not particularly striking but for some reason it appeals to me more than any other. It stays much small than many of the species and that is always a plus for me, mainly because the English weather precludes me from growing them outside the greenhouse or conservatory. The lower of the two photographs shows Gasteria batesiana Barberton, a plant that I have been looking to find for a long time and finally managed to get a small one from a fellow enthusiast last year. It is even better than the original batesiana. This most attractive form of Gasteria batesiana originates from Barberton in Mpumalanga, bearing dark almost black-green triangular-lanceolate leaves. In spite of much searching it has not yet been re-located. However plant enthusiasts are keeping it going in cultivation.
A more in-depth look at individual succulent species, a new one is added each week.
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