The succulent stems of Tylecodon paniculatus are fibrous and fleshy, beige-yellow in colour with smooth, papery, peeling bark. The stem of the botterboom (butter tree), as the plant is commonly known in Afrikaans, gave the plant this common name.
Apart from a yellowish, buttery colour, the stem succulence was used in the past by rural children to lubricate steep slopes for sliding rides. Sitting atop a sturdy botterboom stem, sliding downhill to get a track sufficiently slippery from the slimy juice, can set the scene for real fast final rides down the buttered surface! Then, at the top of the prepared track the would-be champion riders would take their seats in turn on the main stem of a large plant, uprooted for the afternoon’s enjoyment. (Botterboom don’t have particularly strong root systems.)
The main event was the highest speed from the best rider. Taking a firm grip on a branch, with eyes open or closed, each contender would launch the projectile downhill, hoping at best to stay on top, otherwise for survival! Fortunately the game has fallen out of fashion, saving the botterboom for posterity.
This specimen was found in the Agtervinkrivier at the end of March. Old flower panicles from the last two summers are still in evidence, while first rain had prompted new leaves (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010).