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The majority of Old World succulent monocotyledons are grouped into the Aloaceae, a medium sized family of rosulate leaf succulents including Aloe, Astroloba, Bulbine, Chortolirion, Gasteria, Haworthia and Poellnitzia. The largest genus is Aloe with more than 400 species. The Aloaceae are distributed across southern Africa, Arabia, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. A few Bulbines are found in Australia.

Gasteria carinata var.verrucosa


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Gasteria   Duval (1809)
Name: Greek gaster = stomach, referring to the flower shape.

The 16 species of Gasteria are native to Southern Africa. Their succulent leaves range from an inch to over a foot in length. Leaves are produced in a linear array (distichous), but plants may become rosulate with age. The usually flattish leaves have a waxy surface, which may be attractively banded, furnished with white spots or warty. Leaves of the most fleshy species can be quite brittle. A few species have large triangular leaves. Leaf margins are smooth and may be acute or rounded, usually with an acute tip.
Gasterias are popular undemanding indoor succulent plants, tolerating a little shade and infrequent watering. However, some sun ensures a compact growth habit, attractive leaf colouration in some species and abundant flowers. It is a mistake to allow these attractive plants to languish under the staging. The racemes of decorative pink to red flowers produce a good show in the Spring and intermittently throughout the summer. The individual tubular flowers have a distinctive basal bulbosity. The exact shape varies between species and divides the plants into taxonomic groups. Gasteria flowers are edible, raw or cooked and a traditional component of stews.
Gasterias seem resistant to most pests, but may be treated prophylactically with systemic insecticides based on Imidacloprid. Leaves are prone to unsightly black spots, which may be discouraged by avoiding humidity and condensation. The black spots will not spread and are the result of the plant sealing off damage or fungal infection with phenolic substances, which oxidise to a dark colour.
Single leaves or even a broken part, placed with the basal end touching damp compost will root and produce a whole plant. This takes time but can be useful to resurrect a damaged plant.

Click on the pictures below for a higher quality image.
Gasteria baylissiana Gasteria baylissiana

Gasteria baylissiana  Rauh 1977
A medium-sized species whose dark green succulent leaves are covered in nearly confluent, white tubercles giving an overall greyish appearance.
Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Gasteria caespitosa
Gasteria retata
Gasteria bicolor var liliputiana

Gasteria bicolor Haworth 1826   Two sub-species.
Gasteria bicolor var bicolor  van Jaarsveld & Ward-Hilhorst 1994
Syn. G. caespitosa von Poellnitz 1938

This variable species from the Eastern Cape includes numerous plants formerly regarded as separate species. The dark green succulent leaves (3 to 15 inches long) are covered with dense white spots arranged in transverse bands. Leaves grow in a single line at first, tending towards a rosette as more accumulate.

Gasteria retata  

Gasteria bicolor var bicolor
Syn. Gasteria retata Haworth 1827

Gasteria bicolor var liliputiana

Gasteria bicolor var liliputiana  van Jarsveld 1992
Syn. G. liliputiana von Poellnitz 1938

Gasteria liliputiana Gasteria liliputiana

This small form of G. bicolor is native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The succulent leaves are from less than an inch, up to 10 inches long and tend to form rosettes. Racemes of pale pink flowers striped in green at their tips, are produced freely in the Spring.

Gasteria brachyphylla var. brachyphylla Gasteria brachyphylla var. brachyphylla

Gasteria brachyphylla var. brachyphylla  van Jaarsveld & Ward-Hilhorst 1994
This is quite a large, solid looking succulent plant with opposite fleshy, triangular leaves arranged in a single line (distichous). The smooth surfaces of the leaves are marked with many white spots, in bands or randomly distributed.
Native to the Western Cape of South Africa.


Gasteria carinata  Duval 1809
Five subspecies incorporating many plants that were formerly regarded as separate species.

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Gasteria parvifolia
Gasteria parvifolia Gasteria parvifolia

Gasteria carinata var. carinata  van Jaarsveld & Ward-Hilhorst 1994
Syn. Gasteria parvifolia Baker 1880
This variable plant from the Western Cape includes numerous synonyms. The succulent leaves start out in a single line (distichous) becoming more rosulate with age. The leaves have a distinct keel and their surfaces are dotted with many tiny white tubercles.

Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa

Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa  van Jaarsveld 1992
Another variable subspecies whose leaf surfaces are covered with many tiny white tubercles.

Gasteria verrucosa Gasteria verrucosa Gasteria verrucosa var. latifolia  
Above: G. carinata var. verrucosa van Jaarsveld 1992
Syn. G. verrucosa Duval 1809
Above: G. carinata var. verrucosa
Syn. G. verrucosa var. latifolia Haworth 1821
Gasteria dicta Gasteria dicta

Gasteria dicta  NE Brown 1876
An unresolved name for a succulent plant that appears in many collections. Very similar to G. disticha.

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Gasteria disticha
Gasteria disticha

Gasteria disticha  Haworth 1827 (Beestong = ox tongue)
This species from the Western Cape includes numerous synonyms that were once separate species.

Gasteria glomerata Gasteria glomerata

Gasteria glomerata  van Jaarsveld 1991
A compact succulent plant with an unspotted but slightly roughened grey-green leaf surface. Leaves grow in a single line (distichous) but the plant clumps up freely to make a mat.
Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Gasteria multipunctata Gasteria multipunctata

Gasteria multipunctata
This doesn't seem to be a valid name. May be of garden origin.


Gasteria nitida var. nitida  van Jaarsveld & Ward-Hilhorst 1994
Syn. Gasteria obtusa Haworth 1827
The succulent leaves colour up pink in strong light, so the slightly variegated form on the right develops quite attractive pink and green leaves. However, it seems a little reluctant to flower, which should be in mid Summer.
Native to the Eastern Cape.

Gasteria nitida var. nitida
  G. nitida var. nitida
Gasteria nitida var. nitida flower
  G. nitida var. nitida
Gasteria obtusa
  G. obtusa
Gasteria pillansii Gasteria pillansii

Gasteria pillansii  Kensit 1909
Native to Namibia and the Northern Cape of South Africa.

Gasteria pseudonigricans Gasteria pseudonigricansGasteria pseudonigricans

Gasteria pseudonigricans  Haworth 1827
This doesn't appear to be a vaild name despite this succulent plant appearing in many collections. Could be G. subnigricans which may in turn be a form of G. brachyphylla or just an attractive plant of garden origin.

Gasteria rawlinsonii Gasteria rawlinsonii

Gasteria rawlinsonii  Obermeyer 1976 (Cliff Gasteria, Kransbeestong)
Named for: Mr. I. Rawlinson, South African collector of succulent plants. 
This succulent plant generally grows in a pendulous manner, but tends to sprawl if grown on a flat surface. The roots are fleshy. The narrow, linear succulent leaves are arranged in two rows (distichous) or may spiral. The leaves are green with faint white spots on their surface but may become reddened in strong light. Leaf margins may have a few small prickles.

Gasteria rawlinsonii is native to the Baviaanskloof mountains of the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where it grows hanging down sandstone cliffs.


go to top  Literature


Gasterias of South Africa: A New Revision of a Major Succulent Group
by E.J. van Jaarsveld (1994)
Publisher: Fernwood Press (Pty) Ltd., Vlaeberg, South Africa. ISBN: 1-874950-01-6

A beautifully illustrated classic that may be available secondhand. icon

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Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons
Edited by Urs Eggli (2001)
Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York. ISBN: 3540416927

Volume relevant to Gasteria from a series of comprehensive taxonomic treatments of succulent plants. icon