Gasteria (2009)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (April 2009)

Gasterias belong to the Asphodelaceae along with aloes and haworthias, although they are easily distinguished by the shape of their flowers. Gasteria flowers hang down and have a swollen portion at the base. The word gasteria comes from the Greek “gaster,” which means stomach.

Gasterias vary in size from an inch to several feet in diameter. Almost all gasterias begin distichous (with leaves in two rows). Most begin to spiral, and others grow into a rosette.

Most gasterias are from South Africa, where they grow in rich humus and sandy soils on dry hillsides or under larger shrubs. The roots are shallow and thick, which helps the plants obtain moisture from sparcely wet soils and nourishment from decaying leaves from their protective shrubs.

There are small plants and larger plants from which to choose in the genus Gasteria. There are also a number of leaf sizes, textures and colors. One of the most attractive species is G. batesiana, which has dark green leaves with prominent textures.