Ox Tongue, Cow Tongue, Lawyers Tongue
Gasteria Duval is the correct scientific name for the genus. It was named and described by Henri August Duval in Plantae Succulentae in 1809.
Plants of the World Online lists 22 accepted species in the Gasteria genus. The 2013 version of The Plant List named 26 accepted species and six accepted infraspecific names (for the whole genus). It named 236 synonyms and only 17 names that were unresolved. The Plant List is no longer maintained.
Gasteria are currently members of the Asphodelaceae Family. Formerly the Aloaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae families and maybe others over the years.
I bought my first Gasteria from Wal-Mart on 3-19-18. It was unlabeled but at least I knew it was a Gasteria. I sent a photo to Dave Freeman and posted it on a few Facebook groups and they all said it was a Gasteria. GEEZ! I already knew that!
There are two plants in the pot and a tiny offset starting to emerge. The two together measured about 2 3/4” tall x3 3/4” wide in a 2 3/4” diameter x 2 1/4” tall pot. The pot is bulging somewhat and there are roots growing out of the bottom. All the cactus and succulents were soaking wet…
This is my first Gasteria and I was really surprised at the leaves. They are hard and feel like an old rubber tire. You know the kind, like a hard rubber tricycle tire. The leaves are very smooth and shiny but the edges are kind of a smooth rough feeling. GEEZ! Smooth and rough are kind of opposite words, huh? How about the surface of a closed zipper? Smooth but rough… 🙂
The leaves are distichous, especially on younger plants, which means they are arranged alternately in two opposite vertical rows. Now, mind you, that is not necessarily always true even within the species. If this is Gasteria bicolor or G. obliqua, whatever you want to call it, in the wild they normally produce plants that spiral or form some sort of a rosette. Umm… Except a group found north of the Zuurberg range which are distichous. Plants kept in pots are distichous.
Information I read said they are slow growing and need shallow pots. Makes me wonder how old this plant may really be since there are roots coming out of the holes in the bottom of the pot… That curiosity won’t be solved until I have more experience and see how fast, or slow, they actually grow and learn more about their root system. Experience is the best teacher. 🙂
The problem is the species. I have looked at so many photos online it isn’t funny. None looked like the one I brought home. Maybe I should go back to Wal-Mart and find a pot that looks like the photos online so I can get a positive ID. I wonder what they would say if I took it back to exchange and told them I couldn’t correctly identify the species…
Daiv Freeman’s SucculentGuide has photos of 16 species and Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) has 24. Still, none look exactly like the one I brought home.
One website says the most common species is Gasteria verrucosa which are covered with white warts. It says the Gasteria maculata is similar without warts. Well, Llifle says G. maculata is a synonym of Gasteria bicolor and Plants of the World Online says it is a synonym of G. oblique (which Llifle says is a synonym of G. bicolor). POWO says G. bicolor is a synonym of G. obliqua, too. 🙂 OHHHH. This species is “variable”. That means if “we” are confused about not finding photos that look like “our” plants it’s OK. They are variable and who knows what they can look like… So, let’s go to Africa and see how many different variations we can find… Problem is, how many different species, that are similar, are growing in the same location? How do we know which is which if they are all “variable”? No wonder there are so many synonyms…
Even though mine has smooth leaves so the warty species are not in the running, Plants of the World Online says Gasteria verrucosa is a synonym of G. carinata var. verrucosa. That time Llifle is in agreement. That is just some information if you have a warty Gasteria verrucosa. Now you know it isn’t the correct name now. 🙂
Origin: South Africa
Zones: USDA Zones ? (?° F) I will tell you later. 🙂
Light: Light to part shade.
Soil: Fast-draining soil. Potting soil amended with additional grit and perlite or pumice.
Water: Average water needs but information suggests soil shouldn’t dry out and to water during the winter when the soil is dry.
Hmmm…. This plant is from South Africa and they are saying the soil shouldn’t dry out. This is interesting about Gasteria as many species grow in areas with heavy summer rainfall.
UNIQUE FLOWERS, TOO!
Besides the strange leaves, the flowers are also very unique to Gasteria species. They have stomachs! That’s where the genus name comes from. “Gaster” is Latin for “stomach”. The basil portion of the flowers are “inflated” or “swollen” which gave rise to one common name, Lawyers Tongue. I can hardly wait until mine flowers so I can post photos… They can flower any time of the year but mainly during the winter…
So, this is my first Gasteria as I said, and I have no clue what I am talking about. I am happy to have the one I brought home as a new companion and I hope we become good friends.
As far as how to grow Gasteria, you will just need to check the links below to find out from someone who knows. Hopefully, this plant will survive so I can add more photos and tell you about my experience. Just from what I have read, Gasteria actually does most of their growing in the winter. The article by Geoff Stein (palmbob) on Dave’s Garden (see link below) is very interesting and useful. I have also corresponded with him in the past about my Aloe maculata (which is also “variable”).
There are several possibilities as to what species I brought home so maybe time will tell. Maybe it will change color over time. If I were to halfway guess, I would say probably have to say it is Gasteria bicolor or oblique, which are the same since they are synonyms of each other (or one another). Plus since it, or they, are variable as far as color is concerned. Light green and dark green, streaked and spotted… All on the same plant. One thing for sure is the leaves are smooth without warts… You also have to take into consideration what is available in quantity. It is unlikely that a supplier to Wal-Mart would have rare or hard to propagate species. That certainly narrows down the choices.
The Llifle website says this about the leaves of Gasteria bicolor, (which is possibly a synonym of Gasteria obliqua): “smooth or (rarely) slightly asperulous, shiny dark green or glaucous green, with no spots except a few on the back towards the base or heavily mottled with cream spots arranged in obscure transverse lines.”
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.