Brachystelma (2012)

By Chris Deem (October 2012)

Purple, some say, is the color of royalty, and its flowers were purple, an impure sinister purple. Nine malodorous flowers sat atop its caudex like dark, interlocking enclosures. Dark flies with large red compound eyes scrutinized the flowers with their thin, hair-covered appendages and piercing mouth parts.

Only a part of the flat caudex was exposed. The caudex was grayish white, with unhealthy-looking brown marks that looked like a spreading malignancy. Even with its flowers, it seemed strangely naked. All of its leaves were gone.

The light was harsh that afternoon, and the air was stained yellow in the stagnant heat. The flies returned, again and again – perhaps they have no memories. Perhaps the smell reached only an instinct that compelled them to return, and as they did, again and again, they found only emptiness.

In the book The Garden Succulents Primer, I read there are over 100 known Brachystelma species. Most of the species I could find information on were from South Africa, Namibia or the country of Zimbabwe. Many Brachystelma species are said to be extremely prone to rot. This may explain why I have never seen one, except in a book. The rot-prone species featured in this article is B. barberae.

P.S.: Even if someone has one to bring in, at this time of year, I’m afraid you will have to use your imagination.