Astroloba spiralis

Astroloba spiralis, Welgerust
Astroloba spiralis (L.) Uitewaal  
by Jakub Jilemicky and Steven Molteno

spiralis: spiralled.

This was one of the first Astrolobas to be formally discovered. It is mainly defined by its inflated, rugose (wrinkled) flowers, and it is difficult to distinguish from its close relatives Astroloba herrei and smutsiana when not in flower. Like these species, it has glabrous, sharp-pointed, matt-surfaced leaves. In spiralis, the leaves tend to have a slightly straighter, longer shape. Genetic testing and chromosome counts have revealed that this is the only Astroloba species which has a complete extra double-set of chromosomes (tetraploid), ie. double the chromosome count of any other Astroloba.

Astroloba spiralis, Calitzdorp
The flowers appear around the end of summer (mainly December to March), and are the truly distinguishing feature of this species. Each flower has an inflated, puffed-up perianth, which is transversely rugose (wrinkled, a bit like popcorn). Whether its unique flowers are a result of the plant’s tetraploidy is unknown. 


Distribution map
Astroloba spiralis is an inhabitant of the Little Karoo, being restricted by the Swartberg Mountains to the north, and the Langeberg Mountains to the south. This strip of populations extends as far west as the area near Ladismith, and eastwards past Outdshoorn. South of Calitzdorp, the plants have compact short leaves, often in regular tiers, making them very aesthetic.

As with all Astrolobas, some protection from extreme heat and sun will allow the plant to preserve its colour and all of its leaves. Sparing water throughout the year, and extremely well-drained soil are also advised. It can be propagated by seed, by subdivision of clumps, and by cuttings (which should be allowed to dry in a cool, shady spot for at least a week or two before planting). 


Astroloba spiralis, Welgerust
 Known localities: 
  • S of Oudtshoorn (3322B)
  • Arbeidskroon, SW of Calitzdorp (3321D)
  • Bakenskraal farm, S. Oudtshoorn (3322CA)
  • Welgerust, S. Calitzdorp 3321DA)
  • Buffelsvlei (3321AC)
  • Calitzdorp (3321DA)
  • Heimersrivier
  • Perdeberg (3322BA)
  • Tafelkop, NE of Kammanassie Dam (3322CB)
Astroloba spiralis, Welgerust
Astroloba spiralis, Welgerust
Astroloba spiralis, Welgerust
Locality of A. spiralis, Welgerust
Astroloba spiralis, Bakenskraal
Astroloba spiralis, Bakenskraal
Astroloba spiralis, Bakenskraal
Astroloba spiralis, Bakenskraal
Astroloba spiralis, Bakenskraal
Locality of A. spiralis, Bakenskraal

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