RICHTERSVELD NATIONAL PARK - VEGETATION: BOTTERBOOM (Tylecodon paniculatus )  
     
  The species name "panicles" comes from the Latin for "with panicles, tufted". This Tylecodon has the bark of mature stems peeling off in sheets, and flat, 1.25 inches wide (3 cm), succulent leaves

The plant appears to have wide tolerance of growing habitats, growing in weathered rock in the north to coastal sands in the south. The plants can reach heights of 2 m making them the largest of the tylecodons.

Tylecodon paniculatus is summer deciduous. The plants conserve energy by photosynthesizing through their "greenish stems" during the hot dry summer months. The yellowish green, papery bark is a very attractive feature of this plant and has given rise to the common name. During the winter, plants are covered with long, obovate, succulent leaves clustered around the apex of the growing tip.

The long reddish orange, tubular flowers are borne in upright racemes at the onset of summer in November each year, just as the leaves turn yellow and drop off. In nature the plants tend to grow in groups, making a spectacular show when they flower. The seeds, which are very fine, are released from seed capsules during the autumn (March/April) just in time for the winter rains. In summer rainfall areas, flowering times and subsequent seed maturation may be delayed by a few months. The shrub is reported to have a surprisingly weak and shallow root system for its size.


 
     
 

The attractive, bright flowers are bird pollinated. The flowers contain nectar protected by a tuft of hairs halfway up the inside of the corolla tube. These hairs are easily pushed aside by the bird's beak, and lesser double-collared sunbirds have been observed visiting the flowers. Hybrids of T. paniculata and related species have been reported.

The botterboom is poisonous to stock, causing 'krimpsiekte'. In the past, the smooth, slippery stems were sometimes used to slide or ski at great speed down smooth rock faces or dam walls, adrenaline rushes before the days of bungy jumping!