This is what Cotyledon orbiculata can look like in the Agtervinkrivier valley near Robertson: a robust, branched and spreading shrublet that bears flowers up to 1,5 m tall in this region as well as in the Little Karoo to the east. The height is mainly in the flower stalks.
The flowers are already gone from this specimen, but the thick stalks of last summer’s full-bodied inflorescences have not completely departed from the autumn scene. The leaves are oblong-obovate with red upper rims and a trace of keels here and there; curving slightly inwards or even folding at angles in the centre at the leaf top. Some leaves have pointed upper margins, others are rounded. Leaf colour is also variable with pale blue and green among the whitish grey and even hints of yellow on some old leaves spotted with decay. Stems lower down become bare with scars where dried leaves have dropped off.
The surrounding mesemb shares soil protection duties with the taller Cotyledon. Plants create comfort for their roots by occupying above-ground space to the exclusion of competition and some risk elements. Less compaction happens in the vegetated spots given a wide berth by socially adjusted passersby respecting biodiversity. Water is a little better conserved here in the tiny microcosms of shaded knolls and mounds occupied by the random clusters of Karoo plants.
All manner of ground covering mulch material accumulates under the low branches of scrub where discarded leaves and what not can’t blow away too easily. Insects, tiny animals and birds may rest, overnight or nest here, dropping a little something or sometimes a whole body to pay rent and enrich the nutrients in the soil for the benefit of hosts (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010).