May 19, 2023


binomial #017_

about Whitesloanea crassa or

the Somalian Rock-Loaf*


Whitesloanea crassa in cultivation
(photo from Cactus Jungle)
Whitesloanea crassa in the wild
(photo by Lavranos, Mondocactus Quaderni 18)

Whitesloanea crassa is a four-sided succulent prized by advanced growers/collectors. Mainly because it's weird looking, hard to grow, and probably extinct in the wild. That's enough for some people to charge/pay $150+ USD for a single plant, apparently. It reminds me of a loaf of bread.
It is the only member of its genus and was “discovered” thrice by Western botanists in Eastern Somalia and hasn’t been seen again since. It’s assumed to be extinct in the wild due to over-collection/over-grazing/environmental degradation/climate change.

The plants in cultivation come from specimens collected/poached the third time it was seen by Lavranos in 1986.
In what I’ve read on
Whitesloanea crassa, we don’t know much at all, especially
  •   its ecological role/context,
  •   if it’s edible/medicinal,
  •   the reasons for its decline,
  •   & historical range.
As with any uncommon, understudied plant, it has acquired a mystique/mythical quality among hobbyists:

It’s protected by the locals, being some kind of sacred medicine. It is said: ‘They kill you, if you take it with you.’” (from Rikke's Plants page, text by Panos & Stavros)

I chalk this up to decontextualization, colonialism, and hype. I assume most collectors have read the above, so it bugs me that there are no reports on what Whitesloanea crassa tastes like. If it really is super sacred medicine (and goats/cows seemed to like it), surely a curious succulenteur has taken a nibble?

☘ ☘ ☘

Despite this newsletter being all about “binomials,” I rather like common names for plants. The generic name "Whitesloanea" comes from two white dudes' names, Alain Campbell White and Boyd Lincoln Sloane.** Crassa means "thick."

For a long time I didn’t think there was record of a common name for Whitesloanea crassa. However, in my searching and researching, I encountered The Plants of Somalia: An Overview and Checklist by Peter Kuchar (1988) (.pdf), which lists a local Somali name for the plant:


Yay! This name was provided by Roy Tribe**** (who collected the species from the wild in 1957) to Austrian botanist Georg Cufodontis in 1961.

☘ ☘ ☘
While looking for its name, I happened upon some intergeneric hybrids of Aroor-Khaleh
from ebay seller “cactuskeeper032.”*****

 Whitesloanea crassa × Huerniopsis decipiens
Whitesloanea crassa × Orbea variegata

I’m not an expert by any means, but I didn’t realize that this plant was able to breed with other species. Pretty cool! Both Huerniopsis decipiens and Orbea variegata are run-of-the-mill succulents, and I think a lot of growers would not be interested in the crossing. But... they're actually quite cool!

☘ ☘ ☘

Thinking about this funky hybrid reminded me of HybridVigor, a project by Norma Tanega (of “Walkin' My Cat Named Dog” fame). The first album was a duo, and the second album was a trio (no third album). It's pretty mellow.

You can listen to the song “Six” from II by 3 on the youtube

until next time,

🙇🏻‍♀️c a s e y

*This is a completely made-up Casey plant name.
**White and Sloane's names are also attached to another succulent's name, but as its specific epithet: Huernia whitesloaneana.

***Next goal is finding a translation for this name. I have ideas, but nothing 100%!

****This is a guy with the first name "Roy" and the last name "Tribe." I spent some time trying to find the Somalian "Roy" tribe...
*****Unpaid endorsement: I really like this seller's approach, items, and general manner. He usually includes freebie seeds in his orders.

******I recently saw hybrid names like "×Hoodiapelia (Hoodia × Stapelia)", "×Staparesia (Stapelia × Tavaresia)", and "×Tavarorbea (Tavaresia barklyi × Orbea variegata", so I decided to have a crack at it. How'd I do?