If you are fortunate enough to climb to the rocky tops of the Magaliesberg, then in the spring you may find the Frithia pulchra. Look for this plant among the coarse, whitish quartz gravelly pebbles that lie on the surface of the ground.
When in flower in the spring through to the summer months, you cannot mistake the bright pink petals bursting out from the white centre of the flower. The delicate little flowers do not have stalks. Instead, they rise out directly from the leaf area. Being a subterranean succulent plant, only the tips of the leaves show at ground level and look just like the underside of elephant feet â€“ miniature sized fairy elephant's feet.
The Fairy Elephantâ€™s Foot succulent is a member of the Mesembryanthemaceae family and is a perennial plant, which means that it grows and lives for about 3 to 4 years. It bears its flowers in spring to summer and is endemic to the summit areas of the Magaliesberg mountain range.
Succulent plants are generally found in the dry arid areas of our country and are therefore well adapted to low rainfall. Their leaves, stems and/or roots are specially developed to store collected moisture in the tissues â€“ so the next time you look at a succulent, take note of these parts and see how fleshy they are â€“ perfectly designed to store the much needed moisture so essential for the plant to grow. Because of their specific habitat requirements, succulents do not generally grow well when they are away from their natural habitats - except if you are prepared to give the plant which has been purchased from a specialist nursery, a lot of your attention and care.
Never pick any succulents out of their natural habitats. Take a photo as a memory.
Southern Africa has a diverse variety of succulent species - this region has more species of succulents (excluding cacti) than any other similar sized region in the rest of the world. Habitat loss is threatening several of Southern Africa's succulent species. Mining, agriculture and industrial projects are being developed in these specific habitats.
Vincent Carruthers. 2000. The Magaliesberg.
Braam van Wyk and Sasa Malan. 1998. Field Guide to the World Flowers of the Highveld.
John Manning. 2001. SASOL First Field Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa.