Avonia recurvata ssp. buderiana
This South African miniature, barely 2" in height and clad in what seem like scales, looks like some curious plant/fish hybrid.
Growth Habit: Tiny stems, about 5 mm (1/4") in diameter, and irregularly branched (coralliform). The species in this genus are distinguished by their large white paper-like stipules, which are often larger than the leaves themselves. The stipules act to shade the plant from sun and keep in moisture.
Scientific name: Avonia recurvata ssp. buderiana (Poelln.) G. Williamson
Common names: None.
Etymology: 'Avonia' may be from the Latin 'avus,' meaning grandfather, after the white scales. Species name 'recurvata' means curved backwards.
Taxonomy: First described as Anacampseros buderiana by von Poellnitz in 1933, then reduced to a subspecies of A. recurvata by Gerbaulet in 1992. The dozen or so species of Avonia were separated from Anacampseros by Gordon Rowley in 1994, on the basis of the paper-like stipules, but (if I understand correctly) this subspecies was only moved into Avonia by Graham Williamson (G.Will.) in 1998.
Distribution: The Richtersveld, Northern Cape, Republic of South Africa.
Habitat: Many of the species of Avonia , including this one, grow completely exposed in quartzite outcroppings, with little soil. Unlike many succulents, they have no "helper plants" to protect them from the sun and climatic extremes. The scales, while filtering sun and reducing evaporation, may also act as camouflage.
Cultivation: The non-caudex forming species of Avonia are allegedly of easy culture, as compared to the caudiciform species, but in my experience that isn't entirely true. The caudiciform species are very sensitive to over-watering, but this species seems surprisingly susceptible to under-watering. Given their native habitat, a quick-draining soil is advisable. One thing for certain is that this plant will take (and enjoy) as much sun as you can give it, and the scales will increase in size with more light, to the extent that a plant grown in maximum sun will be completely white, with just a slight undertone of green. The plant in the main pic had only been introduced to full sun a few months earlier, but you can see how much larger the scales had already become.
Flowers: Appearing at the end of stems, the flowers are small (as might be expected), far from spectacular, and only last for a few hours. One peculiarity of Avonias is that the pedicel (flower stalk) lengthens as the flower fades, presumably to aid in seed dispersal.
Minimum temperature: This species is exposed to frost in its native habitat, but I wouldn't recommend that in cultivation.
Conservation Status: CITES II, along with all other species of Avonia and Anacampseros. Although not as popular as some of its sister species, it's easy to find online.
Similar species: The species (and subspecies of) A. albissima, A. papyracea, and A. recurvata all intergrade.
A more in-depth look at individual succulent species, a new one is added each week.
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