Family: Mesebrianthemaceae (Aizoaceae)
Fenestraria rhopalophylla (Schltr. &
Diels) N.E. Br.
Common Name: Baby Toes, vensterplant (window plant)
Origin: Coastal South Africa from Namaqualand in the
Northern Cape to Luderitz in Namibia.
Habitat: Grows in areas with sandy or calciferous soils. The
plants occur in very dry areas with winter-rainfall of only 100mm or
less. In the wild, the they grows mostly buried by sand. The transparent
fenestrate leaf tips are often above the sand and allow light into the
leaves for photosynthesis
Description: Evergreen mat
geophyte, mainly subterranean with just the tips of the leaves
appearing above the soil
Stem: Not present or very reduced.
Leaves: Club-shaped flat or rounded on top, often partially
buried with translucent, window-like tips on top to admit light. They
are smooth and have a waxy layer.
Flowers: Medium-large, white to yellow, solitary or in groups of
up to three. They are borne on long pedicels, five sepals with
membraneous margins are present, many petals occur in one to several
whorls, fine stigmas spread up from the centre of the flower.
Flowering time: From mid-winter (or autumn) to early spring.
Fenestraria is a
monotypic genus comprising only one specie and one subspecies. On
each leaf of this plant there is a transparent window-like area at the
top, it is for these window ( in Latin “fenestra”) that the genus name
is derived from.
F. rhopalophylla appears very similar to
Frithia pulchra, though the
leaves are a slightly different shape and F. rhopalophylla has yellow
flowers, compared to the pink flowers of F. pulchra.
Cultivation: It is a winter grower but relatively easy to grow,
it need light sporadic watering during its winter growing period and
requires only very light sprinkling in summer as it is extremely rot
prone if kept too moist when the heat turns off its growth cycle. Water
regularly in spring and autumn, soak the compost fully but allow it to
dry out perfectly between waterings. Nearly all problems occur as a
result of overwatering and poor ventilation especially when weather
conditions are dull and cool or very humid. It does well in full blazing
sun, as well as whit some shade in summer. Hardy to -4°C.
Propagation: Seeds, or