|Pelargonium gracillimum Fourc.
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Trans. Roy. Soc. S. Afr. 21 (1932) 91.
Acaulescent geophyte, 80-270 mm when in flower. Tuber turnip-shaped or narrowly elongated, sometimes moniliform.
Lamina palmately compound with three main pinnae. Pinnae (15-)25-120 mm long, sometimes deeply incised, segments 17-60 mm, 2-4 mm wide. Petiole erect, up to 150 cm long, hirsute with long appressed hairs interspersed with short glandular hairs. Stipules subulate adnate to petioles for half their length, ciliate.
Usually branched, with 2-3 pseudo-umbellets, each with 3-12(-16) flowers. Peduncle densely hirsute with appressed hairs interspersed with short glandular hairs, pedicel ~0.5 mm.
5, lanceolate, apices acute to attenuate, 4.5-7.5 x 1-2.5 mm, posterior erect, others recurved, green with reddish brown apices. Hypanthium (15-)22-35 mm.
Petals white to pale pink to pink, claws forming a sheath, posterior two unguiculate-spathulate, with wine-red markings along the main veins, 9-14 x 2.5-3.5 mm, claws 4-7 mm long and 1.5 mm wide, cuneate, apices rounded to emarginate, laterally recurved during anthesis. Anterior three unguiculate-obovate, 8-11.5 x 2.2-4.2 mm, claws obtriangular, with V-shaped wine-red markings, apices rounded, connivent, the lateral two covering the median one.
5 fertile, posterior one 3.5-6 mm, lateral two 4-7 mm, anterior two 4.5-7.5 mm long, white, concealed.
P. gracillimum can be truly difficult to tell apart from P. luteolum, especially if the petals are white and the hypanthia are about 20-25 mm long (for a Note exploring the differences in more detail, see P. luteolum). Above is a white-flowered P. gracillimum.
The distributions of P. gracillimum and P. luteolum overlap in Seweweekspoort, which in 2016 showed the first new growth after a fire. The new leaves of P. gracillimum exhibited under-developed pinnation typical of young plants (top photo), and bulbs were emerging with new vigour everywhere. Seweweekspoort is an easily navigable gorge that deserves to be slowly driven through, not just because of plant life, but primarily because of its incredible geology. P. zonale is dotted along the narrow road, and in a few years after the fire, the slopes will be lush green again.
E. M. Marais, Taxonomic Studies in Pelargonium, Section Hoarea (Geraniaceae), PhD Thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1994.
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