Red Dragon Flower

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Red Dragon Flower,Huernia schneideriana

Family: Apocynaceae

Also known as: Huernia

They’re SOOOO cute!”  “Aren’t they darling?”  “How simply adorable!”  Comments such as these seem to be of the recurring nature by lady visitors to Ola Brisa Gardens upon spying the tiny flowers of this lounging, sprawling, gentle succulent.  (Most of the guys – if they even acknowledge it – simply grunt or mumble, “Yeah, that’s nice.)

Indeed, the flora of this Malawian, Tanzanian, South African area succulent are not only endearing but actually seem somewhat shy and retiring!  (Just like me, I am sure!)  That is to say that the small – just over a half inch (2 cm) – five pointed, bell shaped, maroon (purplish-brown) with almost black centered flora appears to hide under or below its pendulant arms.  Or, are those legs?

Growing to a height of 12-18 inches (30-46 cm) they are said to prefer a bit of shade.  Ours is near a large Aloe Vera and a prickily mammillaria longiflora  that’s related to the Powder Puff Pincushion (now that’s a great name!) on the Stepped Terrace below the pool.  There they seem to enjoy the sun the majority of the day.  (We once had them free planted in a succulent bed but they staged a little cactus coup and tried to take it over!)

They can be most attractive in a hanging pot with their trailing ½ inch (2 cm) across, appendages growing to three to four feet (92-122 cm) – if they touch nothing.  On those grey-green hanging segments are numerous fleshy (non-hurtful) teeth that I’ve found folks like to stroke once they realize they are non-threatening!

Drought tolerant, this plant is also suitable for growing indoors and you may want to re-pot them every three years or so, depending on their growth.

For quite some time, it was thought to be a natural hybrid of Huernia verekeri and Huernia aspera.  However, now it is recognized as a legitimate species all onto itself. . . . and we’re so proud!

The Red Dragon Plant likes lots of water and fertilizer in the hot climes if it’s to flower regularly.  Ensure you have well-draining soil (I add no little pure river sand) and keep in mind that they are rather susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs and – as a result of damage from these durned critters – fungal problems might soon ensue.  

If you wish to propagate them, it’s very easy!  Simply take a stem cutting – or even one that happens to break off – lay it on gritty compost and soon it will root from the underside of the stem. And – I suppose this is mostly my personal bias – but I encourage use of clay pots only which help the plants dry out between watering.  (I’m just not a plastic pot sort of guy!)

What of their extended relations – the Huernia genus whole?  Well, the sixty-four species of this genus originate from Southern Africa, Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula.  

It was originally named for Justus van Heurne (1577 – 1652) who was a Dutch missionary and the first European to collect plant material from the Cape of Good Hope.  But – wouldn’t you know it – while naming it, in his description Robert Brown misspelled van Heurne’s name.  Hence, the genus must now remain Huernia, instead of the intended Heurnia!  (Isn’t that a kick in the ol’ cacti crotch?)

The Huernia plants, as a whole, are dwarf perennial stem succulents.  They, normally, are mat forming or creeping and rarely pendulous . . .  unlike the attractive subject of this writing, the Huernia schneideriana.   

Graham Charles – who knows a great deal more about cacti and succulents then I ever will –  succinctly states that their “small stems . . . make clusters from which the flowers appear on short stalks near the soil level.”  Yep, sounds like my shy little Red Dragon Flowers!

While reinforcing that the Huernia  genus slowly grow in a mat-like format, Terry Hewitt, another man who knows these plants well, aptly describes them this way “. . . the long-lasting, star shaped blooms, with deep cups and twin-horned seedpods, cluster at the bases of new stems.”

Between what we three have said – and the accompanying photos from Ola Brisa Gardens – I think you get the proverbial picture as regards their flora!

I’ve found this to be rather easy to grow, attractive and a good conversation piece.  So if you seek a succulent but wish to avoid punctures, this may be the guy for you! 

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Mine, presently grow simply sitting on a terrace but I may soon try them in a hanging pot!

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See how shy the flowers are, barely poking their heads out?

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Actually, they are rather “adorable” little flowers!