Mestoklema tuberosum, the donkey fig or copper mesemb is a shrubby, much-branched leaf succulent growing from tuberous roots to 1 m in height. The large tubers resembling sweet potatoes are often visible above-ground. There are six species in the genus.
Old stems have shiny, brown, waxy skins. Young branches are covered with small water-filled cells that become pale, wiry and rough when dry. The generic name, Mestoklema is derived from the Greek words mestos meaning full and klema meaning small branch, referring to the dense branching characterising the genus.
The species distribution is in the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and possibly eastern parts of the Northern Cape, as well as Namibia.
The habitat is dry, karoid scrubland in loam and other soil types. The plants are commonly browsed, also by donkeys, hence the name. One of the Afrikaans common names is hongerdoring (hungry thorn), referring to the plant’s value as famine food during drought. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2015; Smith, et al, 1998; Herre, 1971; iNaturalist; http://www.llifle.com; http://redlist.sanbi.org).