The name Glottiphyllum comes from two Greek words, glotta meaning tongue and phyllo meaning leaf. This fits with the fact that the leaves do indeed look like tongues in many of the species. 

0818 Fig1 G.oligocarpum

Fig. 1   Glottiphyllum oligocarpum displaying the beautiful blue bloom covering the leaves, with persistent seed pods evident

The plants belonging to the genus Glottiphyllum are generally easy to grow provided you take into account the area which they inhabit, which is the East and West Cape Provinces in South Africa. Any rain they receive is most likely to fall in spring and autumn (November and March in particular) with a definite dry period through the summer. Because we grow our plants in a somewhat pampered state it would be impossible to withhold water through the summer, so I advise judicious watering during that period, enough to ensure the roots are kept healthy but not so much that the soil is thoroughly wetted. I begin watering in March/April according to external conditions, slow down the amount of water in summer, and boost watering in September and October. A very light damping is done very occasionally in winter on bright days to protect the roots from drying out. 


0818 Fig.2 G.fergusoniae

Fig. 2 Glottiphyllum fergusoniae clumping up quite readily. Being soft bodied it is hard to keep the leaves without marks appearing.

Glottiphyllum oligocarpum is probably the most splendid of all the members of the genus. The leaves are covered in a thick waxy coating which makes them look bluish green or greyish green in colour. Leaves are very fleshy and overwatering can cause splitting. Whereas many species enjoy growing in the shade of bushes that act as ‘nurse plants’ G. oligocarpum is very happy growing out in the full glare of the sun. The terrain they occupy is made up of dry quartz patches, often amongst rough pebbles. In habitat they are found in the East Cape Province of South Africa near the towns of Jansenville, Steytlerville and Willowmore. These towns are in the rain shadow of the many small mountain ranges running more or less parallel with the southern coastline. This means the amount of rainfall received in a year amounts to about 200 to 300mm (8 to 12 inches).

0818 Fig.3 ancientglottiphyllum

Fig. 3   An ancient specimen of Glottiphyllum, in a 10” pan, displaying years of leaf remains

My methods of cultivation are flexible. I like to give the plants good aeration at root level so the humus/loam content is never more than 40% with perlite, cat litter, grit and vermiculite making up the other 60% in equal quantities. When I can get it I will also add in pumice in an equal quantity to the other non-humus materials. Watering is done by pouring a measured amount of water into the trays in which plants stand and allowing them to soak up the moisture. Anything remaining after 48 hours is siphoned off.

 0818 Fig4 G.depressum

Fig.4   Glottiphyllum depressum bearing a typical bright yellow flower

Plants will flower from late August through into October bearing large, glossy, long lasting yellow blooms which are vibrant in the sunshine.

0818 Fig.5 G pygmaeum

Fig. 5   Glottiphyllum pygmaeum, now known as G. nelii, showing the persistent fruits that are produced after each flowering session

Peter Bint


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