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Official Bulletin of the London Cactus Club - September 1958 vol. 10 no. 5 p. 56-58
by Bryan Makin (Editor) [Other articles by BM on this web site:
White Adromischus, A. hemisphaericus.]

"This plant has always been a favourite of mine, ever since I first saw it in Blackpool in 1947. I was given a rooted leaf at the time and have not been without the species ever since. I had never seen such pure white leaves on a living plant before. It was this feature which attracted me to it, so that I carried that rooted leaf home as lovingly as a new gold watch (not that I've ever had a new gold watch to carry home!)

The first shoot to come through the soil was RED and I wondered what had gone wrong. I now know that the young leaves always start off red, then turn green and, finally, white as the mealy bloom develops over the epidermis. This bloom covers the whole plant including the stems and the flower stalks and calyces. It is unfortunate that the bloom is easily rubbed off and does not renew itself, so that damage is permanent. However, the species grows so easily from leaf-cuttings that it is very simple to replace a fingered specimen with younger ones of unblemished, pristine whiteness.

Adromischus leucophyllus

Like the leaves, the flower stalks start off red and then whiten from the base upwards. [Visible in illustration above-right.] They usually put in an appearance about the beginning of May and grow to about six inches or more before the first flowers open in the late summer. These are pink - a sort of pale, powder pink, which blends well with the white bloom on the plant - and are approximately 1 cm in diameter. They remain open for quite some time before finally fading, but don't seem to set seed in this country unless I have failed to notice it. This is quite unimportant anyway, because of the ease of vegetative increase.

With everything apparently in its favour, it is a wonder to me that A. leucophyllus is still a pretty rare plant in collections, but this certainly seems to be the case. It was grown in this country, though not widely by any means, for many years before it was officially named. I always knew it as "Adromischus leucophyllus" but that was found to be nomen nudum. Because this name, meaning "with white leaves", so aptly fits the plant, it was made official in 1954 when Mr. Uitewaal of Amsterdam, published the requisite Latin diagnosis and a very interesting description and history of the plant. I was quite honoured that he also published an Appendix and habitat photograph that had been submitted by me. [National C&S J. (1954) vol. 9 p. 58.] Adromischus leucophyllus habitat
A. leucophyllus photographed by Bryan in habitat in 1954.

In 1954, I was very pleased to be able to visit the little "township" of Montagu, Cape Province, which is the type locality for A. leucophyllus. It doesn't extend very far beyond the hills surrounding the town, so it is a fairly limited species, even though it is plentiful within these limits. I spent two days examining thousands of wild plants and found remarkably little variation. The flower colour varied from pearly-white to medium-pink and the limbs ("petals") varied from flat-open to fully-reflexed but that was about all.

In addition to the typical plant, there is also a form in which red spots show through the white meal and this form produces a very pretty plant. In every other respect, the two forms are alike and so there is nothing to justify a varietal name for the spotted form and it is just called A. l. forma maculata. I have found that, growing under glass, the spots tend to be rather less pronounced than in the wild plants and less obviously red, but the loss of distinction is not too great. I am hoping, eventually, to grow a selection of propagated plants in an open cold frame out-of-doors, where a previous trial showed me that they should produce growth and colouring far more typical of wild plants. By growing them in a cold-frame, instead of in the open garden as last time, I will be able to have better control of watering, should it be a moist summer like this one, whilst still allowing the direct sunlight to fall on the plants. Adromischus leucophyllus
A. leucophyllus with red spots as grown by Bryan.

The white colouring of A. leucophyllus is not an indication that the plant should be grown in limey soil. On the contrary, the natural soil is derived from a form of sandstone, which usually produces a slightly acid reaction. An open, gritty soil containing humus suits this plant admirably. Given careful watering especially in the autumn, when the atmospheric humidity is high, a warm sunny position in the greenhouse and protection from very low temperatures in winter, this plant will thrive and produce a permanent stock through propagation. Frequent repotting is quite unnecessary - but make quite sure that the pot or pan used is wide enough to avoid undue risk of blemishing the leaves.

Adromischus leucophyllus Uit. is an uncommon plant, but very easy to grow once you've got it. As with most of the other species of this genus, it rests in winter which is always a help to successful cultivation. New leaves are produced in spring and in autumn - whilst summer is mainly given over to the development of the flower stems which are produce terminally. Never be induced to cut off the flowers of Adromischus just because they are not individually very large. Look at them with a lens and you will see just how lovely they really are. A. leucophyllus is certainly no exception to this and really looks complete when it is carrying its open flowers, as mine are at this moment." Adromischus leucophyllus habitat
Photographed in Oct. 1958 by Harry Hall again near Montagu.

Last Updated: May 2003
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1958 Bryan Makin, UK