Pelargonium paniculatum Jacq.

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Plant. Rar. Schoenb. 2 (1797) 6, t. 137.
Section Otidia

Deciduous shrublet with
4-6 cm thick succulent stems, smooth, with peeling bark, grey-green and becoming yellowish with age, mostly unbranched or branched at ground level and at the apex in advanced years. The unbranched part of the stems can grow to 1 m tall in old specimens. The root system is simple, i.e. without tubers.  

Subsucculent, alternate, compound, non-aromatic, hard, apparently glabrous but actually microsopically pubescent. Lamina ovate in outline with acute apex, alternately bi- to tripinnatipartite, channelled along the midrib, 80-160(-230) long x 60-110(-280) mm wide. Segments linear, somewhat folded along grooves. Petioles 35-80(-130) mm, base persistent in the form of thorns. Stipules ovate, ca. 2.0 x 1.5 mm, membraneous.

Inflorescence complex, up to 150 cm tall, panicle-shaped, stretched, green, each branch bearing a terminal pseudo-umbel with 3-7 flowers. Pedicel 11-16 mm.

The inflorescence is much-branched and panicle-like. Various sources describe it as non-persistent (POSA 2, Becker and Albers, 2008), but from the top image it is clear that there are parts of the inflorescence that can be persistent well into the next flowering season. Vorster (1990) conforms with this observation. The green peduncles and non-thorny appearance of their remains are some of the characters that clearly distinguish this taxon from P. crithmifolium.  

5, narowly ovate, adaxially concave with acute apices, green with reddish apices and hyaline margins, 9-10 x 2.0-2.5 mm. Hypanthium 1-2 mm.

White, cream or light pink, narrowly rectangular or narrowly obovate with cuneiform bases, posterior two auricled, 10-11 x 3.0-3.5 mm, reflexed at >90° from the base, with a conspicuous purplish mark in the lower 1/3 of the petal, anterior three 9-10 x ~2 mm,
reflexed at <90°, usually without markings

5 fertile, three 7-8 mm and two 9-10 mm long.



P. paniculatum has a small distribution of about 100 km in S Namibia and the very northern corner of the Richtersveld. On the photo is an adult specimen of Pachypodium namaquense, an oddity in the genus, with a similar habit to P. paniculatum: mostly a single long stem, with a terminal inflorescence. This is a dry mountainous landscape, but can look very green and pleasant
in a good year.  

P. paniculatum in the Karoo National Botanic Garden near Worcester, with several upright stems. 
Becker and Albers (2008) argue that these are probably hybrids between P. crithmifolium and P. paniculatum: "Numerous specimens have shown an intermediate appearance in three characteristic traits viz stem branching, degree of leaf pinnation and shape of inflorescence". However, the average rainfall in Worcester is about 300 mm more than in the northern Richtersveld (100 mm), and anyone growing these plants in a greenhouse will know how different pampered otidias can be to plants growing in harsh natural conditions. It could be argued that the morphological differences between natural and artificially grown specimens have led to the epic taxonomic confusion in this section, as species are separated not only on the basis of flower characteristics but also with regards to root, stem, leaf and inflorescence shapes and sizes.

Heroic. Little else could be said of
this level of resilience.

P. paniculatum, P. crithmifolium and the newly described P. anauris form a natural cluster of species, the so-called 'P. crithmifolium group' (Becker and Albers, 2006). There are several characteristics separating these species, some of which are retained in greenhouse culture. Below is a key to this group, based on their research and the above observations regarding persistence of inflorescences.

1a. Inflorescence panicle-shaped, green. Leaf pinnation double or triple. Hypanthium <2 mm.

Pelargonium paniculatum Jacq.
Plant. Rar. Schoenb. 2 (1797) 6, t. 137.
1b. Inflorescence zig-zagged, compressed, persistent in the form of thorns, red. Leaf pinnation single to double. Hypanthium >2 mm.

2a. Flowers per umbel 2-4. Posterior petals 8 mm, anterior 7.5 mm long. Base of petals narrow, access to nectar tubes free, without ears. Stamen length: three 3-4 mm, two 4-6 mm. Pistil length 5 mm. Flowers fragrant.

Pelargonium anauris Becker & Albers
Schumannia 5 (2008) 169.

Flowers per umbel 4-6. Posterior petals 10-12 mm, anterior 8.0-10.5 mm long. Base of petals broad, with ears. Stamen length: three 7-8 mm, two 9-10 mm. Pistil length 7-10 mm. Flowers not fragrant.
Pelargonium crithmifolium J. E. Sm.
Icones Pictae Plantarum Rariorum 1 (1793) 3, t. 13.

Becker M., Albers F. (2008), Vorster (1990).

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