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Sixty-four species of Huernia are found in eastern and southern Africa, Ethiopia and Arabia. They are low (10 cm) perennials with angular fleshy stems armed with large teeth. The grey-green stems branch from the base forming large clumps. Attractive flowers, 2-3 cm in diameter with short stalks, are produced freely in the summer and autumn from the base or middle of the stems. The flowers which may be red, yellow or brown and often spotted, have a 5-angled margin or are 5-lobed with a characteristic small lobe in the angle between the main lobes. The flowers produce a smell of carrion, the strength and quality of which varies considerably between different species.

Huernia macrocarpa


A gritty, very free-draining compost is suitable, and clay pots help the plants to dry out between watering. Huernia species vary in their susceptibility to rotting, but are generally fairly easy to grow, especially if kept pest-free. The plants grow best in warm conditions, but may be overwintered at 10°C if kept dry. As with most asclepiads, it is unwise to leave them wet in cold weather, but Huernia seem to require plenty of water and fertiliser in hot weather if they are to flower freely. They are very susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs, and damage from these may well initiate fungal attack. It is as well to take frequent stem cuttings, which may be laid on gritty compost and will then root from the underside of the stems.

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Notes on selected species

huernia booleana

Huernia boleana
An easily-grown Huernia, with attractively furry flowers, about 2 cm in diameter. The flowers of many Huernias produce a characteristic perfume rather similar to that of a mouse that has been dead for some time, and is especially pronounced in my clone of this species. Huernia Boleana is found growing on cliffs in the Bole valley in Ethiopia. BlowFly
Huernia hystrix from Southern Africa grows easily and is free-flowering in late summer. The flowers, about 2 cm in diameter, are quite frilly and particularly attractive.

huernia hystrix
huernia pillansii

Huernia pillansii
An interesting Huernia from the South African Cape, which flowers freely in late summer and early autumn. The dense array of tubercles on the stems makes this species stand out in a collection or on the showbench.

huernia schneiderana

Huernia schneiderana
An easily-grown Huernia, although the dark-red flowers, about 2 cm in diameter, are not the most spectacular in the group. Originates from Malawi.


Huernia Picture Gallery
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huernia aspera huernia boleana huernia brevirostris
Huernia aspera Huernia boleana Huernia brevirostris
huernia hislopii huernia hislopii huernia hystrix
Huernia hislopii Huernia hislopii Huernia hystrix
huernia hystrix huernia laevis huernia macrocarpa
Huernia hystrix Huernia laevis Huernia macrocarpa
huernia macrocarpa huernia pillansii huernia piersii
Huernia macrocarpa Huernia pillansii Huernia piersii
huernia plowseii huernia huernia
Huernia plowseii
 Photo: Sebastian Boniforti
Huernia procumbens Huernia species bought as
 Huernia saudi-arabica
huernia schneiderana huernia verekeri huernia zebrina
Huernia schneiderana Huernia verekeri Huernia zebrina