The cylindrical leaves of Caputia scaposa var. scaposa, sometimes called the silver spider and earlier Senecio scaposus, grow densely clustered on short branches. Especially when young they are covered in a woolly layer of silver-white hairs. Leaves curve inwards slightly to pointed tips, shaping the spidery likeness. Leaf dimensions are 10 cm long, 1 cm wide.
Where the felted leaf covering is damaged the dark green leaf surface becomes visible. A dense woolly covering on top of plentiful leaf succulence appears like overdoing the survival strategy, a belt and braces approach. The plant’s habitat is challenging, however, and an effective strategy is its own justification.
Water is not the only consideration in this: Sunburn is commonly prevented by hairs, the absence of which led to the invention of sun-block lotions, not needed by mammals barring one species. And now we learn that our sunblock causes damage in the sea and rivers.
Branched inflorescences above the leaves reach heights around 30 cm. The flowerheads have woolly stalks. A flowerhead of yellow ray and disc florets is about 1,5 cm in diameter. A few rows of narrow, tapering bracts, woolly and round-tipped, envelop the flowerhead. Blooming comes in summer (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010; iSpot; http://www.llifle.com/; www.cactus-art.biz).