Fuzzy Bear Paws

Cotyledon is a small genus of about 12 species belonging to the Crassulaceae family. They are generally referred to as varkoorplakkies in Afrikaans, and are found in South Africa with some species extending into Eswatini, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The plants are characterised by alternating paired leaves along the length of the stems, and yellow to orange and red tubular flowers – a feast for the sunbirds.

The cute, fuzzy-leaved Cotyledon tomentosa, better known as bear paws, is a species known from the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa. Unlike the other very succulent- stemmed species, Cotyledon tomentosa is relatively slow growing and has thin, woody stems.  The species name is derived from the Latin word tomentosus, meaning ‘covered in hairs’, a descriptive name for the soft fuzzy leaf texture of this species, which makes it unique in the genus.

Cotyledon tomentosa has two different subspecies. C. tomentosa is at home in the rocky outcrops of the river valleys in the Eastern Cape. It has unique chubby and fuzzy leaves that resemble little bear paws. The plants are low-growing, multi-branched shrubs that reach about 45cm in height. The plants have light orange flowers that normally appear in late winter to spring. A beautiful, sought-after variegated form of this variety is also known. The subspecies ladismithiensis is rather different to the bear paws, with much longer, thick cylindrical leaves, and is known from rocky outcrops in the Little Karoo. Both share the same soft and fuzzy leaf texture. The plants are easy to propagate, but due to their stems being woodier in nature, they are slower to root than the other species. They could be planted in sheltered positions of the garden, but are best suited to growing in containers. Given bright light, the plants grow in a compact shape, and the leaves are colourful with yellowish-green surfaces, often with reddish undertones or tips. Article by Sean Gildenhuys from Kambroo Plants. Online orders at https://kambroo. com/ or contact Sean on sean@kambroo.com

The Gardener