IGG News, by Matija Strlič
IGG Small Grants 2022, by Matija Strlič
Group Forum Report, by Elena Ioganson
Pelargonium greytonense and its putative relatives in the wild, by Jean-Pierre Damion
On the Trail of Craib’s ‘Undescribed Species’, by Matija Strlič



Welcome to the Summer 2022 Newsletter. Each issue being a small project, this one was no less so – finding those with knowledge that can be spilled on a page and willing to do to so, is an uphill struggle for most editors.

It is therefore with great pleasure that we welcome Jean-Pierre Damion’s article on Pelargonium greytonense, who reports on his explorations of the habitats near Greyton in the southern Cape, with professor J. J. A. van der Walt no less. I am sure everyone will appreciate the photos and the analysis of the taxon, along with the two presumed parent species. It might be a good idea to try and reproduce the cross in cultivation, although for me P. hermanniifolium flowers too late compared to P. papilionaceum. In any case, all three species are well worth growing and are summer growers, at least in my central European climate. Careful though, P. papilionaceum can grow into huge shrubs of 2-m height!

In another article, we explore the identity of five pelargoniums that Charles Craib wrote about in his hoarea monograph as “undescribed”. Doing the required detective work has been extraordinarily enjoyable, but what I continue thinking about, even after writing the piece, is how extraordinarily knowledgeable Craib was and what else he might have known and was not able to share, having passed away so prematurely. I am not aware of Craib having pressed any herbarium specimens though, this would have been a truly rich research resource today. However, he did edit and write much of the content of Hystrix, the newsletter of the South African Pelargonium and Geranium Society, still very much worth reading. The late 1980s and early 1990s were the times when research into Geraniaceae was probably at its peak and Hystrix featured many articles by P. Vorster, J. J. Lavranos, Ernie de Marie, J. J. A. van der Walt, E. M. Marais and other names that will resonate with most of us. I hope you enjoy the Newsletter in front of you.

Matija Strlič, Chairman and Editor


IGG News

The last quarter was unusually quiet, perhaps we are all overwhelmed with the ongoing horrendous war in Ukraine. While the IGG has itself no members from Ukraine, the Facebook Group has 12 – we hope everyone affected by the war remains safe.

As has become customary, Elena Ioganson prepared an overview of the activity in our Facebook group, appreciated by so many. When a new member joined and thanked for admission, I really appreciated Richard Brown’s comment, saying: “You will love it here!! There are so many wonderful people here. No question is too silly or unimportant for the many experts here.” Thank you, Richard, and everyone else, for making the Group such a welcoming and inclusive space. I know there are many of us who dislike social media, but as I have often written – if anything, this is what Facebook is good for, even if one doesn’t follow any other content.

In June, we welcomed Derek Tribble as the speaker in our regular webinar series, he explored the available online resources available to pelargonium researchers. It was an incredibly useful talk and I am sure will be appreciated by many. The talk, as well as the web links, is available in the ‘meetings’ section of our website. Derek used to be a member of the IGG for many years and helpfully advised on the development of the Group in the period around 2017, when significant changes were introduced into how the Group was run. He has now focussed his efforts on the genus Gasteria, having been invited to contribute to what is no doubt going to be a monumental monograph on the genus.

In April, I had the pleasure of visiting the Pelargonium collection in Kew, based on which a short article will be available in the next Newsletter. While during the pandemic, visits to study collections were difficult, it is now again possible to arrange viewings of the greenhouses upon prior request. Without doubt, the Kew collection of pelargoniums is exceptionally interesting as it contains some early collections of interesting species, and of course, my interest peaked at the middle of the table, where there is an extensive collection of otidias. I will write a short piece for the next Newsletter.

Thinking ahead, and given that a good number of us are busy pollinating flowers and collecting seed, please do note the address to which this year’s harvest should be sent, arriving no later than 1 October:

Jan Movitz
Berthågavägen 9A
752 60 Uppsala

When sending seeds from countries outside the European Union including Switzerland and the UK, please use an ordinary flat envelope. If you have to declare the content, please write “Personal gift of no commercial value” or similar.

This looks like it’s gong to be the last season for us to be able to send seeds to the UK without phytosanitary checks. Next year, we will need to aggregate all seed orders and send them to the UK with a certificate, and have them distributed in the country. It would be wonderful to find a member willing to help with this.

Matija Strlič, Chairman


IGG Small Grants 2022

This, by now traditional activity of the IGG, was started in 2018. Last year’s awardees were Robert Niklasson, who is now illustrating a new species of Pelargonium, and Dr Mehmet Fırat, who wrote and article on P. quercetorum and arranged for seeds to be collected and distributed via the IGG. This year, he is researching erodiums in SE Turkey.

The IGG is delighted to offer funding for research or promotion of the Group aims in 2022/2023 and make two awards. Following the mission of the IGG, the outcomes of such research need to benefit both the Group’s aims and its members in the form of a report made available for publication in our Newsletter and online. We are making available up to £1000, to be shared by two proposals typically. The proposals need to consist of:

  1. Up to a 500-word description of the planned work. This should have a clear justification why the work is needed, how it will improve the understanding of Geraniaceae or popularize and promote the plant family, what exactly the proposed work will entail, when and how the recipient will report on the activities during the project. It is expected that the projects normally take less than a year to complete;
  2. A clear budget: how will the recipient use the requested funding, and if the requested funding is not sufficient for the activity to be undertaken in its entirety, how will the rest of the required funding be ensured. Typical eligible expenses include travel and accommodation costs, small tools, software, consumables etc. This section should also clarify how the funds should be transferred to the recipient. The grant cannot be used as personal remuneration;
  3. Clear description of the output(s). At least one of the outputs needs to be written in the form of a report that can be publishable in the IGG Newsletter and on the IGG website.

It is customary for the proposals to cover fieldwork, but they could also cover visits to herbaria or botanical gardens to study species in cultivation or in the wild. We have funded botanical illustrations, and would be interested to support ethnobotanical research as well.

The proposals will be evaluated by the IGG Small Grants Evaluation Committee, consisting of members of the IGG Management Team, and of IGG members with significant expertise in Geraniaceae: Benjamin Coultrup, Florent Grenier, Jan Movitz, Matija Strlič. Neither the Committee nor the Management Team members are eligible for funding. The proposals should be submitted to by 15 July 2022. The proposals will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Fit to the IGG mission
  • Financial risk to IGG
  • Quality of the project outcome(s)

Matija Strlič, Chairman and Editor


Group Forum Report

In the almost three-month period that has passed since the release of the Spring Newsletter, about 1,300 members of the Facebook Group participated actively. These are members who viewed the content, left comments or reactions, or reposted contents. In this period, about 600 posts were contributed, with 1,900 comments and 29,600 reactions.

Pelargonium incarnatum, credit: Irina Papaioannou.

With the arrival of the summer, hoareas have mostly gone dormant, their photos now appear only occasionally. The species that have flowered in the last couple of months were featured by Jan Movitz, Patrice Barboutie, Matija Strlic, Nick Mong. It is now the time for active growth and flowering of the summer-growing species. We were happy to see flowers of some rare species such as P. otaviense, P. grandicalcaratum, P. articulatum, P. caffrum, P. ellaphieae, P. caylae, P. oenothera, P. boranense and others.

Pelargonium parvipetalum, credit: Elena Ioganson.

Many photos are contributed of beautiful mature plants grown from the seeds of previous IGG Seed Lists. Some of the cultivated species look considerably better than they might do in the wild. A lush shrublet of abundantly flowering P. incarnatum by Irina Papaioannou is a nice illustration of this. Many IGG members shared photos of their wonderful plants grown from seeds that flowered for the first time – Gao Xiang (P. oblongatum, P. caledonicum), Raul Diez Caro (P. petroselinifolium), Olya Gluschenko (P. quinquelobatum), Gitte Adahl (P. psammophilum), Nick Wang (P. pinnatum), Andrea Cattabriga (P. rapaceum), Matthieu Thomas (P. caledonicum) and others. Seeing such mature plants grown from seeds must contribute to the optimism and enthusiasm of those new to the Group.

Erodium guttatum, habitat photo (Telouet area, Morocco), credit: Peter Jansen.

As always at the beginning of the summer, quite a few beautiful photos of Geranium species were posted. Erle Randall (G. incanum), Peter Brouwer (Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’, G. macrorrhizum, G. purpureum), Richard Brown (G. clarum), Joost van Schaik (Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, G. caffrum), Matija Strlic (G. nodosum and G. sanguineum), Francisco Robles (G. malviflorum), Karel Dirkzn (G. reuteri) and Gao Xiang (G. sibiricum) shared their observations with us.

Geranium clarum, credit: Richard Brown.

Since the time of flowering of other genera of the Geraniaceae had not yet come, they were poorly represented. We saw only a few of their photos: Erodium glaucophyllum and Monsonia heliotripioides by Ori Fragman-Sapir, E. guttatum by Peter Jansen and E. corsicum by Andrew Clarke.

Posts with species from the habitat are always appealing. They are very important to our understanding of the nature of the plant and its habitus, and enable us to create the necessary cultivation conditions. In the last quarter, which was not the most convenient for fieldwork, our “field reporters” were Egbert Compion, Riaan van der Walt and Bernie Kleeberger.

Pelargonium karooicum, habitat photo (Biedouw Valley, South Africa), credit: Bernie Kleeberger.

It would be excellent if the rest of the Group members, who are less or mostly inactive (~2,700), occasionally contributed as well. Even a simple “like” would suffice.
As our Facebook grows, please contribute your interesting posts about Geraniaceae and share your beautiful photos.

Elena Ioganson, Group Forum Administrator


Pelargonium greytonense and its putative relatives in the wild

Professor J. J. A. van der Walt described Pelargonium greytonense as a new species in 1984 [1]. Although well established, it is considered to be a young species possibly of hybrid origin. The putative parent species are thought to be Pelargonium hermanniifolium and Pelargonium papilionaceum. In 2001, I had the honour and the privilege to take a botanical walk with Professor van der Walt where Pelargonium greytonense is plentiful, i.e. Greyton (Fig. 1).

Coming from Cape Town, after passing along the rolling wheatfields of the Overberg, we reach Greyton, a peaceful and picturesque village.  Greyton lies at the foot of the majestic Sonderend mountain range.

It is practically at the entrance to the reserve along a small stream that we begin to see Pelargonium greytonense of adult size but also some seedlings. Continuing towards the Noupoort ravine, Pelargonium papilionaceum become abundant, with their feet practically in the maroon-coloured water characteristic of the fynbos streams. The brown colour results from the combination of decomposition of the plant material upstream and iron contained in the soil. Flowering is abundant in the season and is followed by a no less plentiful seed production. Unfortunately, 95% of these seeds are eaten by insects.

To see Pelargonium hermanniifolium you have to cross to the other side of the stream and climb the slope in a drier environment.

Fig. 1: J. J. A. van der Walt in the P. greytonense habitat.

Pelargonium greytonense

Pelargonium greytonense is an erect, much-branched shrub (Fig. 2). The stems are soft and green when young but become woody when older.  The palmately incised leaves are pubescent with minute and somewhat rigid hairs interspersed with long hairs and glandular hairs. The leaves are more or less aromatic. The flowers are white to pale pink and are borne in umbel-like inflorescences. The two posterior petals have dark red markings (Fig. 3). The peak flowering period is October and November. Pelargonium greytonense has a small distribution area in the southwestern Western Cape on the southern slopes of the Riviersonderend mountains. This area receives rain during the winter months and is frost-free and high temperatures are experienced during the summer months.

Fig. 2: Pelargonium greytonense.

Fig. 3: Pelargonium greytonense, flowers.

Fig. 4: Pelargonium hermanniifolium.

Pelargonium hermanniifolium

Pelargonium hermanniifolium [2] is an erect woody shrub, many stemmed (Fig. 4). The stems are green when young, becoming woody with age. The leaves are simple, arranged in two opposite rows and rough to the touch. The leaf blade is narrowly to broadly obovate and the base cuneate. The five petals are white to pink with the posterior two broadly spathulate with dark red markings. The shrubs flower from September to April with a marked peak in October to November.

Pelargonium hermanniifolium occurs in the Western Cape from Worcester southwards to Caledon and eastwards to Swellendam. It is associated with mountainous habitats and is very common on the southern and northern slopes of the Riviersonderend mountains. This area receives rain during the winter months and high temperatures are experienced during the summer months.

Pelargonium papilionaceum

This is an erect and strongly, rather unpleasantly scented shrub, reaching a height of 2 m [3]. The base of the main stem is woody whereas the side branches are herbaceous and covered with long soft hairs (Fig. 5).

The cordiform leaves are usually about 80 mm long and 120 mm wide, shallowly lobed and conspicuously veined. The leaf margins are finely toothed, minutely serrated or almost entire.

The branched peduncles form many umbel-like heads with 5-12 flowers each. The striking light pink to carmine flowers with two large upper reflexed petals and three very narrow lower ones, are borne on long and villous pedicels. Dark purple blotches on the upper petals contrast with adjacent white blotches. Pelargonium papilionaceum flowers from August to January with a marked peak in September October.

Pelargonium papilionaceum is restricted to below the 34° south parallel in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. It is found from Stellenbosch to Gorge and grows at the edges of forests and in kloofs in half-shade, often close to streams.

Fig. 5: Pelargonium papilionaceum.The two putative parents are thus distributed in a small area and could give rise to a taxon recognized as a species with significant morphological differences especially in the leaves and the flowers, compared to the parents.

Within a radius of 20 km around Greyton, to the north, in the Rivier Sonderend reserve, there are many further pelargoniums, about 40 species mainly from the Campylia and Pelargonium sections. About ten hoareas are also quite common: e.g. Pelargonium pinnatum, Pelargonium caledonicum (which one would expect to see near Caledon, 25 km to the south west) and Pelargonium dipetalum subsp. dipetalum. Starting in Greyton, the Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail weaves through the Riviersonderend mountains towards McGregor, a 14-km, good day’s walk through the fynbos with a rich diversity of plant species, many different proteas and ericas. A series of waterfalls and pools known as Oakes Falls provide swimming and resting opportunities for weary hikers. A bit of a warning though: the trail is reasonably strenuous and you should be fit and well-equipped for it. At slightly higher altitudes, pelargonium enthusiasts will appreciate many campylias all along the way.

Jean-Pierre Damion, Juvisy, France


  1. J. A. van der Walt (1984), A new species of Pelargonium (Geraniaceae) from the Southwestern Cape. South African Journal of Botany 3, 256-258.
  2. J. A. van der Walt, P. J. Vorster (1977): “Pelargoniums of Southern Africa”, Vol. 2, Juta, Cape Town, 1977.
  3. J. A. van der Walt (1977): “Pelargoniums of Southern Africa”, Vol. 1, Purnell, Cape Town, 1977.


On the Trail of Craib’s ‘Undescribed Species’

Charles Louis Craib (21st May 1954 – 19th March 2012) was a self-trained botanist and nurseryman, and an international pelargonium expert. Originally from Grahamstown (now Makhanda), he studied law and anthropology, although his interest in pelargoniums (as well as bulbs and other succulents) led him to travel the country over and over, as well as introduce many extraordinary finds to cultivation through his Penrock Nursery. He discovered many plant species (two are named after him: Aloe craibii and Ceropegia craibii), including several pelargoniums, some of which are still undescribed. Two weeks before his death, The Bushman’s Candles co-authored with John J. Lavranos, was published. The book celebrates the section Sarcocaulon of the genus Monsonia and is probably the most meticulously researched, beautifully written and masterfully illustrated monograph in the family of Geraniaceae.

The book titled Geophytic Pelargoniums (2001) is equally a masterpiece [1]. It is a testament to Craib’s detailed fieldwork and understanding of the Hoarea section of Pelargonium that remains awe-inspiring. The monograph is amply illustrated by Gillian Condy and examines a selection of species in detail, with distribution maps and population ecologies, as well as cultivation requirements.

At the end of the book, the chapter Novelty in the Section Hoarea explores five taxa, some of which have since been described as new species and some have been confirmed as unusual populations of known taxa, while others remained a mystery. This article explores Craib’s undescribed species, tracking each one to its habitat, exploring its possible identity.

Pelargonium sp. nov. Hantamsberg

The top plateau of Hantamsberg, a massive star-shaped mountain range just north of Calvinia, is rarely visited – much of it is part of private farms and remains inaccessible to the public, perhaps for the better. With its altitude of 1600 m it majestically overlooks the surrounding flats almost 600 m below – an altitude difference that guarantees a very different climate on the top, compared to the dry landscape below. No wonder that the name of the mountain in Khoi name means “mountains where bulbs grow”.

In 2019, having negotiated access with a farmer, with Florent Grenier and Andrej Kos we had the rare opportunity to explore the plateau, looking for “a hoarea resembling P. petroselinifolium in tuber structure”. Craib further intimates that the “habitat comprised grassy areas amongst large boulders and grassy low hillocks”. He doesn’t say what the flowers actually look like but “are amongst the most unusual and spectacular in this section”.

Fig. 1: The unusual population of P. pilosellifolium on Hantamsberg, with entire leaves.

Craib knew of the population of P. pilosellifolium on top of the mountain, growing amongst boulders in exactly the situation as described above, so this cannot be the taxon in question. The P. pilosellifolium is still an extremely unusual northern population with entire leaves, which separates it from the “nearby” Bokkeveld populations with pinnate leaves.

We will not dwell on this taxon here, but there do appear to be several quite distinct leaf types, a Kamiesberg one with few narrow pinnae along the leaf main axis, a Cederberg one with leaves that are broadly fan-shaped and bipinnatifid, and a southern one mostly found south of Ceres and across most of the Overberg region, that has entire leaves. P. pilosellifolium has been researched quite a bit, but some more systematic microscopy might reveal distinct patterns of distribution. Having said that, the leaves of the Hantamsberg population are entire, like those of the southern populations, which is very unusual (Fig. 1).

It is not clear what Craib meant by the tuber structure of our mystery species resembling that of P. petroselinifolium, as this species has the same tuber structure as the vast majority of the section, i.e. turnip-shaped, elongated tuber, occasionally moniliform.

The illustration on p. 113 of the book shows a small geophyte with what looks like entire leaves, still present at the time of flowering, and long, spathulate petals, with intensive markings on the posterior ones. Such flowers are hardly “unusual and spectacular”, however, and are typical for many yellow-flowered hoareas.

Fig. 2: Two plants of P. luteopetalum/aristatum on top of the Hantamsberg, one with entire, the other one with bipinnatifid leaves. Such diversity of leaf shapes is typical for P. luteopetalum.

Almost as soon after arrival to the top, we stepped into a dense population of this taxon, the plants must have been in the hundreds. Some had entire leaves, some highly divided, and they were truly everywhere (Fig. 2), although not among the boulders – this was typically a niche favoured by P. pilosellifolium. Among the other surprises were large shrubs of P. griseum (Fig. 3) – this being the westernmost population of this otherwise rarely observed species.

Fig. 3: A densely branching shrub (or perhaps several) of P. griseum, constituting a large, healthy population of this otherwise rare species.

We now know that the petals of the mystery plant are yellow and that the length-to-width ratio of posterior petals is 4.5-7 (Fig. 4). The hypanthia have appressed curly and appressed stiff hairs, interspersed with glandular hairs, which would make this either P. luteopetalum or P. aristatum, depending on the definition of “short” and “long” glandular hairs, respectively, which is what apparently separates the two species according to the published key to yellow-flowered hoareas [2]. It could be that the Hantamsberg population is an intermediate population between the two species, which could mean that P. luteopetalum is synonymous with P. aristatum. However, more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis. In any case, it is unusual that Craib did not think of P. aristatum, which was well-known to him, although the high variability of leaf shapes of the Hantamsberg population (typical of P. luteopetalum) must have been confusing.

Fig. 4: The flowers of P. luteopetalum/aristatum from the top of the Hantamsberg are typical of the taxa, with posterior petals of proportions that are intermediate between those of the two species.

Pelargonium sp. nov. Botterkloof, Skitterykloof

The second mystery species has “leaves similar to those of P. violiflorum and yellow flowers with narrow petals”. The plants were found in extremely small populations of a few plants only. The two locations are quite disparate: Botterkloof Pass connects Nieuwoudtville and Clanwilliam on R364, while Skitterykloof Pass connects Op-die-Berg with the Tanqua Karoo on P2244. These two locations are thus at the northern and the eastern ends of the Cederberg range.

Fig. 5: P. fasciculaceum with the leaf shape typical of the Bokkeveld/E Cederberg populations.

It is difficult to imagine what yellow-flowered violiflorum-leaved hoarea Craib saw. P. violiflorum has fairly large leaves with broad pinnae, a shape shared by many hoareas. Having visited Botterkloof in 2017, we saw small populations of P. fasciculaceum with leaves resembling Craib’s description (Fig. 5).

This species must have been known to Craib, although the then known description [3] was based on P. fasciculaceum populations along the Olifantsrivier, which typically have enormous, up to 80 cm tall, bipinnately segmented leaves with short pinnae. The Bokkeveld and E Cederberg populations of P. fasciculaceum have leaves of different pinnation patterns, quite unlike the Olifantsrivier forms, as we now know and as was perhaps unknown to Craib.

It is unlikely that these are different taxa, although the leaves of E Cederberg populations are quite a bit smaller and do somewhat resemble those of P. violiflorum. However, the flowers are typical of fasciculaceum, with narrow petals and two very long and three extremely short fertile stamens (Fig. 6). We now also know that this species can have fairly broad petals and beautiful, pink-flowering populations have been found as well. With these new populations, the distribution map as well as the description of P. fasciculaceum [3] need to be significantly revised therefore.

Fig. 6: The dense, multi-flowered inflorescences of P. fasciculaceum are truly impressive. The narrow yellow petals fit Craib’s description well.

Although the Botterkloof population is small, it should be said that not all populations of P. fasciculaceum consist only of a few plants. Some, e.g. south of Nieuwoudtville, are fairly numerous, although thinly scattered across a large area, and have much larger leaves as well, up to 20 cm across, i.e. quite a bit bigger than P. violiflorum.

Pelargonium sp. nov. Wuppertal

Craib goes on, saying: “[…] another hoarea found growing close together in one population of about 600 tubers in the eastern sandy foothills of the Cederberg near Wuppertal”. The illustration on p. 107 of his book shows plants with long linear petals with markings on the posterior ones, and long hypanthia. Although he does not say what the petal colour is, this population was known to J. J. A. van der Walt, who collected herbarium specimens there already in 1977.

Fig. 7: P. wuppertalense, a plant from Craib’s population around Wuppertal.

E. M. Marais described this taxon as P. wuppertalense (Fig. 7) in 2016 [2], demonstrating that it is a bit more broadly distributed than Craib thought, from Pakhuis Pass, around Matjiesrivier, in the vicinity of Wuppertal and as far north as Nieuwoudtville.

According to the key to the closely related yellow-flowering species [2], P. wuppertalense is separated from P. aristatum and P. fissifolium by the absence of a single hair or a tuft of hairs at the tip of the laminas. However, we now know that not all populations of P. aristatum and P. fissifolium exhibit a single hair or a tuft of hairs at the leaf tips, so this appears not to be a useful diagnostic character.

The separation of these three species, as well as of P. luteopetalum, on the basis of the length of glandular hairs on hypanthia, and on the basis of the presence/absence of single hairs on leaves seems tenuous, and may require systematic research in the many populations of these four species, spanning an enormous range, from the Knersvlakte to the Roggeveld, from the Hantamsberg to the Worcester basin.

Pelargonium sp. nov. Robertson Karoo

This extraordinary taxon is now well known and also widely grown. Craib says: “this species may be more widespread since it is well represented where it occurs, on mountain foothills amongst karroid scrub or else on open flat ground or gently undulating areas” – we can but hope that Craib was right, as the area where this species was first observed is under threat from mining development. It is part of a private farm, with the owner well aware and appreciative of the rarity of this species, however, money tends to find its way… We were fortunate to visit the area with E. M. Marais in 2016 (Fig. 8), while she was still researching the distribution of the species, hopefully soon to be published (the epithet being already known from [4]). Along with the unusual P. luteum and P. fumariifolium, this species also has twisted posterior stamens (hence the name), meaning that the pollinating insect collects pollen on its back (Fig. 9).

Fig. 8: P. sp. nov. tortuandrum n.n., a small Robertson Karoo taxon.

Fig. 9: The flowers of the Robertson Karoo taxon with two fertile stamens facing downwards – there can be an additional third or a fourth fertile stamen in lateral positions, though.

This species was sold by Craib through his Penrock Nursery and became quite widespread in collections. In 2001, when Craib’s book was published, it was also found by Derek Tribble, who later described his discovery in our Newsletter [5].

Pelargonium sp. nov. Nardouwsberg

This last mystery took the longest to clarify. “This interesting pelargonium grows within the shelter of clumps of Restionaceae, in the foothills of Nardouwsberg north of Clanwilliam. […] This species produces sparse umbels of white flowers on exceptionally long stems,” writes Craib, accompanied by an illustration on p. 111. The leaves appear to be similar to P. ternifolium, although it is not quite clear from the illustration if the petioles are recurved, as would be typical for P. ternifolium. The flowers are of course entirely different, with five petals and with the posterior petals quite a bit broader than the anterior three.

Craib sold this through his nursery, and it became available in the 1990s, grown by some as P. oxaloides, using the name of a taxon that remains insufficiently known [3], but the epithet seemed to fit well. Having grown this from seed myself, it was clear that the leaf petioles were recurved, i.e. they started growing horizontally and then turned upwards at some distance from the tuber – a character shared by a few hoareas, including P. ternifolium.

Once the plant flowered, E. M. Marais identified it as P. reflexum, which makes a lot of sense, given the flower structure and the vicinity of the Bokkeveld escarpment, where this taxon is locally quite common. The populations of P. reflexum south of Nieuwoudtville have pinnately divided palmate leaves. While the Nardouwsberg plants still have ternate leaves, the three pinnae are not further divided but just irregularly incised.

For a very long time, the locality of this population remained obscure, until I was recently contacted by Callan Cohen, a South African ornithologist, who found a healthy population of this taxon (Fig. 10), possibly the same one that used to be known to Craib. The rosettes with numerous leaves and the round petals are quite unusual for P. reflexum, though.

Fig. 10: P. reflexum from Nardouwsberg. Credit: Callan Cohen.


It has thus taken us the better part of two decades to “re-discover” Craib’s “undescribed species”. It is a testament to his extraordinary knowledge of the veld that all the five taxa are highly unusual.

The P. luteopetalum/P. aristatum from Hantamsberg could be the missing link between these two species. P. fasciculaceum from the northern and eastern Cederberg range are now known to have a very different leaf shape to the extremely large and finely bipinnatifid leaves of the populations around Citrusdal and significantly extend the known distribution of the species as a whole.

Two of the species were in fact new: P. wuppertalense and P. sp. nov. tortuandrum n.n., the latter still awaiting formal description. The last one, P. reflexum from Nardouwspas significantly stretches our understanding of P. reflexum as a taxon, as well as significantly extends the known distribution of this species southwards.

We can be only grateful that Craib so generously shared his discoveries, both through the book and its illustrations, and through his nursery. He had more unusual finds up his sleeve, which we will need to have a look at in the future.

Matija Strlič, Ljubljana, Slovenia


  1. Craib (2001), Geophytic Pelargoniums. Field and Cultivation Studies of Pelargonium Section Hoarea, Umdaus Press.
  2. M. Marais (2016), Five new species of Pelargonium, section Hoarea (Geraniaceae), from the Western and Northern Cape Provinces of South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 103, 145-155.
  3. M. Marais (1994), Taxonomic studies in Pelargonium, section Hoarea (Geraniaceae). PhD Thesis, University of Stellenbosch.
  4. Grenier (2019), Secrets of Namaqualand Succulents, self-published.
  5. Tribble (2016), Pelargonium section Hoarea sp. nov. Robertson Karoo, Geraniaceae Group News no. 143, p. 17.