Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Blog: Michael Malice - The Plant As Celebrity: Whitesloanea crassa

Michael Malice is the subject of Harvey Pekar's graphic novel "Ego & Hubris" and co-author of five other books. He has over 200 succulent species in his Brooklyn apartment.

If horticulture can be considered a form of entertainment, it is no surprise that the secondary elements of entertainment culture come with it. Take the case of Whitesloanea crassa, a monospecific Asclepiad / Stapeliad indigenous Somalia. In succulent circles, the species was treated as a celebrity. Old message boards contain cached references to "sightings" of the obscure and highly collectible species. There is Whitesloanea "trivia", as when pedantic horticulturists insist, incorrectly, that the genus is properly hyphenated since it named after White and Sloane. "Gossip" abounds about the plant: the Somali people, it is claimed, will kill you if you take it from the ground. The plant was notoriously "promiscuous"; for years the only material to be had was a cross with Huerniopsis decepiens. (Breeding across genera? Scandal!)

Much like many other "celebs" Whitesloanea's career has followed a familiar trajectory. Even five years ago, seedlings were impossible to find and sold quickly for $100 per. Thanks to the geometric growth of breeding populations, they can now be had for as little as $8--a drop of over 90%!--and are offered on eBay constantly. When it comes to plant collecting, Whitesloanea has become nothing more than a has-been.

Danny: This succulent is so rare that is has been basically unstudied by scientists. Over the past century there are only a handful of publications on Whitesloanea crassa. Most recently was a phylogenetic study published in 2000 that showed that Whitesloanea crassa is related to two other African succulents, Duvalia and Huernia.


  1. "Thanks to the geometric growth of breeding populations, they can now be had for as little as $8--a drop of over 90%!--and are offered on eBay constantly. When it comes to plant collecting, Whitesloanea has become nothing more than a has-been."

    [Citation Needed]

    The plants are rarely on ebay (I check regularly) and typically go for at least $50US

  2. I agree.. doesn't make sense. I have not seen it for less than 50 dollars on Ebay....

  3. Just an update (May 2015) for anyone looking for these plants or any information on them. They still occasionally appear on Ebay, but not in great numbers. Over the past 5 years I haven't seen seedlings sell for any less than $50. Mature plants are even more difficult to come by and can easily top $100 <-- these plants are almost NEVER on Ebay. The Whitesloanea crassa x Huerniopsis decipiens, also mentioned in this post, also show up on Ebay from time to time, but generally from sellers located outside of the US. Happy hunting!