Adenium swazicum is a dwarf, succulent shrub, that grows up to 700 mm high. A deciduous plant that loses all leaves in winter. The leaves appear together with the flowers in summer. The basal stem is large and swollen, short, succulent and partially buried. It can grow up to 150 mm in diameter and produces several greenish to greyish branches.
Adenium swazicum is assessed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the Red List of South African plants. According to the Red List, the plant is declining in its natural habitat because of the establishment of sugar-cane plantations on about 50% of its range. Much of its natural habitat has sodic soils rich in sodium, which is also ideal for sugar-cane plantations. The increased harvesting of this plant for medicinal and horticultural purpose, is also a major cause. Traditional healers harvest the whole tuber for medicinal purposes and horticulturists harvest the whole plant in the wild, rather than collecting cuttings and seeds for propagation. Only about 10% of the population is currently protected in the Kruger National Park, in Mpumalanga. Based on the current scenario, it is estimated that this species will lose 80% of its wild population in the next 30 years. The Lowveld National Botanical Garden in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, has made a huge effort to propagate this plant and makes plants available for restoration projects at local schools, and has promoted its conservation through educational programs.
The sap in the tuberous stem of Adenium swazicum is very toxic; in the old days it was smeared on the tips of arrows and used for hunting and killing game. It is believed that the animal shot with such a poisoned arrow, will die within 2 kilometers.
For medicinal purposes, the sap is diluted, as alone it is poisonous, and used to treat heart failure and skin diseases. The powdered stem is also used to kill parasites on domestic animals.
For horticultural purposes, A. swazicum produces beautiful pink flowers and creates a good aesthetic in the garden. The fleshy, succulent stem, with multiple branches, makes this plant a good subject for a rockery garden and it fits well with plants such as Pachypodium. It is also a handsome container subject.
- Batten, A. 1988. Flowers of southern Africa. Southern Book Publishers, Johannesburg.
- Court, D. 1981. Succulent flora of southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Hurter, P.J.H., Lötter, M., Krynauw, S., Burrows, J.E. & Victor, J.E. 2009. Adenium swazicum Stapf. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2017/05/15.
- Kruger, T.J. 1981 Trees, shrubs and climbers. Published by the author, Bethal.
- Onderstall, J. 1998. Transvaal Lowveld and Escarpment. South African Wild Flower Guide 4. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Philips, E.P. 1926. The genera of South African flowering plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa no.10. The Government Printer, Pretoria.
- Plants of southern Africa online: http://posa.sanbi.org/searchspp.php, accessed 15 May 17.
- Schmidt, E., Lötter, M. & McCleland, W. 2002. Trees & shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana, Johannesburg.
- Van der Walt, K. 2016. Population biology and ecology of the critically endangered succulent Adenium swazicum. http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/handle/10539/19365. Accessed via WIReDSpace 29 May 2017.
- Wikipedia: Sodic Soil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodic_soil. Accessed on 29 May 2017.