Malawi December 2022

Rikus van Veldhuisen

There are far less succulent plants growing in Malawi. Much of the country side is in use for agriculture and there are not many more arid areas with rocky outcrops suitable for succulent plants. But Malawi has a fair of National Parks and a dozen or so very interesting succulent euphorbias. 

We travelled Malawi in December 2022 and it proved to be a very enjoyable journal. The main reason is that the Malawi people are very hospitable and nice. there is very little crime and the main roads are good with little traffic. Accommodation and restaurants are very basic, but always you felt very welcome, which might also be due to fact there were hardly any other tourists. Malawi itself is a very nice surprise.


There are many beautiful areas and especially the shores of Lake Malawi are impressive for its beautiful scenery. It was at this coast where we came across Euphorbia pseudolaevis (Monadenium leave) (picture 1) As it was still very dry during our visit, the plants where is rest and not much more than a stick of half a metre or so was to be seen. Just the dried flowers made it clear it was an Euphorbia at all. As this place is close or at the type locality of Euphorbia pseudolaevis made this find particularly interesting. When in flower it is a very beautiful euphorbia (picture 2).

In the same area near Karonga, north Malawi, we found another locality of Euphorbia specksii, which is known only from Tanzania, but not so far away as it is known from the opposite side of Lake Malawi.


Euphorbia mafingensis is known to grow on top of Mafinga Mountains (picture 3). It is quite a walk to reach this place and it takes you day. But the reward is a spectacular scenery and one of the most beautiful Euphorbia I know of. Most plants were just throwing out branches from their large tubers (picture 4), but we were happy some plants growing on favourable warmer spots were just coming into flower (figure 5).


On a rocky outcrop a bit more to the south we found a spiny Euphorbia of which I still don’t know the identity and it could be new species (figure 6). The only one flower (figure 7) we could find does show a similarity with the flowers of the Tanzanian Euphorbia quadrangularis.


At the southern tip of Lake Malawi Euphorbia malevola is growing. I have seen this species before in Zimbabwe, but here it is a larger and much more densely branched shrub (picture 8). And it was in full flower to my delight (picture 9).


Close to the border with Mozambique Euphorbia contorta grows on a granite dome, a so called skull rock. This is the only one locality for this species outside Mozambique and is an odd one of the spiny species of Euphorbia with its thick branches with large leaves (picture 10). Its two coloured flowers are very nice (picture 11).


We saw many more species of succulent Euphorbias on this trip and the ones shown here are just to give you an impression. The last Euphorbia on this trip was Euphorbia dedzana (picture 12) in the Dedza Mountains. However it was still very dry there were some plants in flower (picture 13). A very nice way to end our trip and go home again.