Kalanchoe thyrsifolia or ‘painted lady’ as she is commonly called is a striking and attractive succulent plant – preferring to grow between the rocky slopes of the mountain and surrounding grasslands. This succulent is quite widespread throughout Southern Africa and is also found in Swaziland and Lesotho.
The grey green paddle shaped leaves tinged in red are attractive enough on their own. However in Autumn this plant sends up its elongated flowering stalks bearing grey white buds opening into clusters of yellow flowers. These are coated with a white powder – hense the name ‘painted lady’.
Kalanchoe thyrsifolia can withstand extreme temperatures. It is thought that the white powdery coating is a form of protection from extreme heat – In much the same way that it is better to wear a light or white coloured T shirt on a hot day and not a dark one.
The ‘painted lady’ flowers long into Winter and is a good source of pollen for many insects and butterflies. According to butterfly expert and author of ‘Butterflies of Southern Africa’ – Steve Woodall, the lava of the ‘pale hairtail’ butterfly, Anthene livida, feed on the flowers of this particular Kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe thyrsifolia grows well in cultivation, although it is not as commonly grown or known as its cousin Kalanchoe luciea, a similar plant. I decided to paint this lovely succulent in a landscape setting alongside another old time mountain resident – the Buff streaked chat. These handsome birds are a common sight on the mountain and surrounds. They are quite vocal and always a pleasure to come across as they perch conspicuously on top of the large rocks calling and chatting cheerfully to one another.