It is one of the nicest window-leaf succulents and very popular
as the shape of the leaves is truly unique and when in flower the
magenta petals with lighter centres are particularly showy.
F. pulchra is a dwarf rosette forming perennial succulents
that grows almost completely embedded in the ground and it is just
visible above the soil surface in their natural habitat. It is somehow
similar looking to the
Fenestraria rhopalophylla, but
its leaves are more tubular.
Rosettes: Up to 30 mm in diameter (O more in cultivation)
Stem: Almost stemless, or with a much reduced stem
Leaves: Club shaped up to 2 cm long and
4-5 mm in diameter, often
grey-green, arranged in a cluster, flattened or rounded and transparent at the
tips with irregular edges so that light can shine through them into the
inner tissues. Sides of leaves edged with big cells in vertical rows,
the stomata hidden in the narrow valley in between, wax cover almost
complete, surface rugose.
Roots: Short, thickened underground rootstock.
Flowers: About 25 - 35 mm in diameter, solitary, borne on very
short stalks or stalkless, bright magenta with a white or light yellow
centre, The five sepals are unequal and closely resemble the cylindrical
leaves. Petals number between 30 and 45 decreasing in lengths toward the
centre and usually with blunt, rounded tips. Forms with flowers of
different colours are available.
Blooming season: May
Fruits: About 5 mm in diameter x
7 mm long. Quite robust, yellow to ochre, spongy capsules,
globose to oval in shape resembling a barrel the top forming only a tiny
lid and open when wetted and close when dry (hygrochastic capsules),
releasing the seed.
The leaves is are characterized by the presence of thick and large
transparent epidermal cells in vertical rows.
Commonly called "Baby Toes" has small club-shaped leaves with
fenestrate ends and form large clumps by offsetting.
Family: Mesebrianthemaceae (Aizoaceae)
In: CG 1925:433
Origin: It is endemic to South Africa. Magaliesberg
from Hartbeeshoek to the Rustenburg
Habitat: Its natural habitat is the temperate grassland in the
summer-rainfall region at higher altitudes. It grows in very shallow
soils with coarse quartzite gravel or sand stone and often on exposed
rock plates, the roots anchored in cracks between the coarse quartzite
rocks. This substrate reaches very high temperatures in summer and may
experience frosts during severe winters. The
fenestrate leaf tips are often above the ground and
allow light into the leaves for photosynthesis. Precipitation ranges
mm of rain per annum. It grows sparsely scattered but forms impressive
monotypic stands when in flowers, although the sunken plants are not
Common English Names include: Window Plants, Baby
Toes and Transvaal Fairy Elephant's Feet
Etymology: It was named after Frank Frith (1872 -
1954), a railway services gardener stationed at Park Station,
Johannesburg, who took the specimens to Brown at Kew while on a visit to
London. Brown named Frithia in honour of the man who brought him the
The specific epithet "pulchra" is derived from the Latin
"pulcher" meaning "beautiful".
Notes: F. pulchra appears very similar to
though the leaves are a slightly different shape and F. rhopalophylla
has yellow flowers, compared to the pink flowers of F. pulchra.
Remarks: During periods of drought the plant shrink in size as a result
of moisture loss. They sometimes even disappear below the grit under
adverse conditions, making them very difficult to find. The shrinkage is
achieved by means of leaf cells arranged in columnar rows. When moisture
is lost and the contents shrink, the tangential cell walls contract,
drawing the plants deeper into the soil avoiding desiccation during the
dry winter months or in times of drought.
Cultivation: It is a summer grower relatively easy to cultivate, it
need light sporadic watering during its winter resting period and
requires moderate sprinkling in summer as it is rot prone if kept too
moist when the heat turns off its growth cycle. Gritty, well
drained soil containing a small amount of organic material will keep
this species happy. It can be grown in pots or out of doors in a
Soak the compost fully but allow it to dry out perfectly between
waterings. Under-watering can lead to disastrous results, so be
generous with water in summer. Nearly all problems
occur as a result of overwatering and poor ventilation especially when
weather conditions are dull and cool or very humid. It does well in full
blazing sun, as well as whit some shade in summer. Hardy to -4°C.
Propagation: They can be sown from seed sown in a gritty
sandstone (acid) medium or propagated vegetatively by division (beware
that the leaves break very easily) .