The genus Gibbaeum contains 16
species (one subspecies and one variety), the name is derived from the latin word gibba
which means hump, the genus got its name from the leaf pair where the leaves differ from
each other in shape and size. Gibbeaums are commonly referred to as volstruistone
(ostrich toes), mimicry plants, duimpie-snuif (thumb snuff), papagaaibek (parrot beak),
vinger-en-duim (finger and thumb), visbekvygie (fish mouth vygie) and voltruiswater
(ostrich water). Ostriches eat these plant in times of drought (succulent leaves)
hence the name ostrich water.
These dwarf succulents form clumps up to 200 mm in height. Stems are short and upright or grow horizontally if present, roots may be fleshy but a short woody rootsock is apparent in most species. The bodies are united leaf pairs which are equal or subequal. The bodies are divided into lobes which are divided by an oblique fissure. Leaves are smooth, minutely hairy or covered with long dense hairs, they are light to dark green, bluish green, reddish, whitish-green, grey-white or metallic grey in colour.
Flowers are small to large, solitary, pink to dark purple or pink, borne on a pedicel. Petals occur in one to three whorls, numerous stamens (filimentaceous staminoides may be present), six to nine feathery stigmas are present. Fruit capsules are six to nine locular with triangular valves and broad valve leaves, covering membranes present - closing devices absent. Numerous seeds, smooth and egg-shaped. The flowers appear in late winter to early summer, flowers open in the afternoon and close again in the evening.
Plants are found in the Little Karoo and adjacent areas in the Western Cape, RSA (winter rainfall area, with a annual rainfall of 100-700mm). Plants prefer open sunny areas, especially quartz patches where they camouflage themselves quite well, they blend in amongst the quartz rocks.