Huernia zebrina (Lifesaver Plant)

Huernia zebrinaHuernia zebrina (Lifesaver Plant) Aka Little owl eyes, Owl eyes, Zebra-stripped Huernia, Carrion flower, or Lifebuoy Huernia is from the genus Huernia (family Apocynaceae). Huernia zebrina has a wide distribution being found in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and the Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Provinces of South Africa. Its subfamily is that of Asclepiadaceae , the milkweed family.

 It is one of the most beautifully flowering huernias. The flower is 6- 7cm in diameter, star-shaped, whitish or yellowish with red or purplish spots and lines. In the middle of corolla there is a vivid annulus, which seems to be made out of rubber or plastic, from which its “lifesaver” popular name derives.

Forms clumps with stems being toothed about 2 cm in diameter. It’s very difficult to realize it’s not a cactus from afar, but on closer inspection, it lacks the areoles, which  are small light- to dark-colored bumps on cacti out of which grow clusters of spines.

AerolesAreoles are important diagnostic features of cacti, and identify them as a family distinct from other succulent plants. Huernia and other succulents lack them.

Huernia zebrina (Lifesaver Plant)Huernia zebrina’s bud. Various species of Huernia are considered famine food by the inhabitants of Konso in southern Ethiopia. ‘Huernia’ is named after Justus Heurnius, a 17th century Dutch missionary and botanist. ‘Zebrina’ means  ‘Zebra-striped’. USDA hardy to zones 10- 12.

HuerniaHuernia zebrina N.E. Br. subsp. zebrina, Pole-Evans, I.B., Phillips, E.P., Dyer, R.A., Codd, L.E., The flowering plants of South Africa (The flowering plants of Africa), vol. 12: t. 451 (1932) [Niemeyer]



36 thoughts on “Huernia zebrina (Lifesaver Plant)

  1. This is one of your strangest, and yet most strangely attractive, offerings. The ring reminds me of the child’s toy that has several graduated rings stacked on a pole. And, yes: it does look like a cactus. it also looks African, probably because of the vaguely zebra-like stripes.


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