Orbea hardyi is a creeping stem succulent, a perennial.
Its worm-like stems are slightly four-angled, pale green or grey to reddish, depending on the light, but all with purple mottling. The stems branch low down, becoming 30 cm long. Small, conical tubercles with tips that curve back are spaced along the stems.
Flowers are borne from the upper parts of branches, one to four of them that open in sequence. The corolla is a flat-based shallow tube in which a bulging, fleshy ring or annulus is found. The generic name Orbea, is derived from the Latin word orbis, meaning ring, referring to this annulus. (Such rings are for instance also found on some Huernia flowers.)
The five corolla lobes, each about triangular in shape, have tips that attenuate and curve. In the centre of the annulus the tiny outer corona encircles also an inner corona, both with distinctive, tiny lobes. The flower is pale cream in colour with a dense covering of red to maroon markings. These flowers are smelly, attracting flies as pollinators. Flowering happens from midsummer to early autumn.
The species is found in Limpopo between Polokwane (Pietersburg) and Makhado (Louis Trichardt); maybe also towards eastern Mpumalanga. The plants grow in deep shade of montane forests in humus-rich litter on south-facing slopes and rocky outcrops. They are difficult to spot when there are no flowers to announce their presence. This is a rare plant although its population in habitat is stable early in the twenty first century.
Previous names include Orbeanthus hardyi and before that Stultitia hardyi (Hardy and Fabian, 1992; www.succulent-plant.com; www.redlist.sanbi.org).