Tromotriche pedunculata subsp. pedunculata sounds like the name of a young prince born into the royal family in a far away country. Tracing the history of official plant naming is today like evolution itself. The plant family was first named Stapelia by Linnaeus in 1737 to honour Johannes Bodaeus á Stapel who first commented on the botanical writings of Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle.
In 1796 Masson added 37 species of Stapelia to the original 12, while Robert Brown split the genus into four in 1809. In 1812 Haworth rewrote the classification to add another 9 genera, two of which were Tromotriche and Tridentea. Only in 1995 did Bruyns move the plant in picture from Tridentea to Tromotriche. Over this time the knowledge about this family of plants increased enormously, as well as the insight into the relationships among its members. The number of newly discovered species added to the challenges, brought more details to ponder.
White and Sloane who published this story in 1937, two centuries after Linnaeus, still called the plant Stapelia pedunculata.
One or two flowers grow together but successively, their stalks emerging from low down on a young stem. It is common that more buds are produced per inflorescence, but some usually fail to open. The erect flower stalks become up to 15 cm long, much taller than the stems. There are tiny hairless sepals, lance-shaped with tapering, acutely pointed tips below the corollas.
The corolla has a five-pointed star-shape, its lobes long and narrow, tapering to acute tips. The lobe margins may curve down much; sometimes so much that they touch below, forming a tapering cylinder. The slightly wrinkled inner surface of the corolla is pale olive-brown to greenish yellow in the upper sections of the lobes, while low down and around the corona it has a clearly delineated pale, nearly white to greyish section, sometimes dotted red.
The lower parts of lobe margins (in the pale section), are ciliate (eyelash-like) with long, dark purple vibratile (moving) hairs; the upper lobe margins hairless. The corolla spreads to a diameter of up to 6 cm.
In the dark flower centre, the small, narrow outer corona lobes are spreading and three-toothed, purplish black in colour. The inner corona above it also has purple-black lobes that are two-horned, one horn over the other, each curved and club-shaped, the club-heads knobbly, covered in angular projections (White and Sloane, 1937).