Oscularia deltoides (2008)

By Eric Driskill (October 2008)

Oscularia deltoides is in the family Aizoaceae. The name is derived from the Latin word osculum, which means small mouth. Oscularia therefore means a group of small mouths, which refers to the toothed leaves of O. deltoides.

O. deltoides is confined to the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape of South Africa, ranging along the mountains from Cres to George. It occurs primarily on sandstone rocks and outcrops with a few species found on granite. This species occurs alone in rocky habitats, which may indicate intolerance to competition and also be a result of frequent fires.

O. deltoides is a perennial shrublet with succulent stems that are dark pink or reddish. The leaves, which alone are a conversation piece, are three-angled, sickle-shaped and gray-green, often tinged with red. This species is easily distinguished as the only one with leaf margins and keel prominently red-toothed.

Flowers, fragrant and lavender pink with a yellow center, appear in spring and summer, opening in the afternoon. Stamens are white below and pink above, and collect into a cone in the center of the flowers. Fruits repeatedly open when wet and close when dry.

This plant is easily cultivated from cuttings. It doesn’t present any particular difficulty when grown from seed when available. In my experience, you will need to grow this plant hard and provide strong direct sunlight and a light watering hand to keep it compact. With less sun, you will enjoy much more of the reddish stems due to the leaf internodes being much further apart.

I have two plants and think the more compact of the two looks more attractive and takes up much less room. Take a few cuttings and play around with various amounts of sunlight and watering regimes and see what suits your taste.

This plant was sold at our show this summer as Lampranthus blandus, which also happens to belong to the Aizoaceae family. If you do an Internet search, you will see this plant under both names. I believe it should be labeled Oscularia deltoides, but I have been wrong before. There are only a few names I have been stubborn to hold onto when changes happen. For now, I am sticking with O. deltoides.

With odd-shaped leaves, a nice splash of color and small but fragrant and attractive flowers, these plants are a very nice addition to any collection. They also won’t take up much space on the bench or windowsill.