C to D Expanded - Cactus Club

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C to D Expanded

Plant of the Month > Species C to D

Calibanus hookeri is an unusual plant, with multiple tufts of evergreen, grass-like foliage growing from a cork covered, woody caudex which can grow to 3 feet in diameter (with at least one source suggesting that truly ancient plants may produce a largely subterranean caudex to nearly the size of a Volkswagen). The tough foliage may range from 12 to 36 inches in length and to barely 1/10 of an inch in width. The Caudex is covered by a thick corky bark which becomes deeply fissured as the plant grows, looking reminiscent of the so called tortoise shell plant, Dioscorea elephantipes. Even relatively young plants produce this characteristic fissured bark. The plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers being produced on separate plants. The inflorescence is a short panicle, growing to only about 4 to 8 inches in height, and is largely hidden within the taller growing foliage. The remains of several older flower panicles can be seen hiding amongst the dead foliage in this plant at the The Ohio State University Biological Sciences Greenhouse.  The flowers are purplish and tiny; after pollination, the female plants produce red berries. After flowering, the leaves die from the tufts from which the flowers emerged - each tuft flowering only once. New tufts of foliage are produced from the apex of the caudex as the plant grows. Old plants produce many tufts of foliage, giving them a truly grass-like appearance when seen from a distance......

Ceropegia cimiciodora
The Ceropegias are a members of the milkweed family: Approximately 200 species of Ceropegia are recognized, virtually all are native to tropical and sub tropical regions of the old world, with a majority of species originating from southern Africa and Madagascar. Most species are vining perennials, with a good number of succulent species - many  produce tuberous roots, while some are stem, and occasionally, leaf succulents; a few species are shrubby perennials.......

   

Ceropegia sp aff bosserii var razafindratsirana
originates from Madagascar, and belongs to a complex that includes a number of similar species and varieties with comparable, dimorphic stems. All of these plants produce a characteristic succulent stem in its vegetative stage; the stems at this stage are typically highly succulent, compact are comparatively short. but eventually, once the plant has sufficiently matured, it begins its reproductive stage, and at this time, it produces thin, long, cylindrical stems which typically climb to several yards, and produce numerous terminal flowers, with the curious vase shaped floral tubes, topped with a distinctive birdcage dome of petals with their tips united.....

Ceropegia woodii is at once one of the most attractive, and one of the less typical species of the genus. While most of the Ceropegias produce rather nondescript foliage which is typically lost during periods of drought, Ceropegia woodii produces attractive, heart-shaped, succulent leaves which are beautifully marbled in silvery green and are more or less permanent. Unlike many other species in the genus, which may produce long scrambling vines, which in cultivation can twine extensively through other plants in a collection, this is a relatively compact trailing species with thin, wiry stems. The vines do not typically climb - they produce no tendrils and seldom twine their through other plants for support, so I suspect that in habitat, Ceropegia woodii is a scrambling, ground hugging vine. In cultivation, plants are frequently grown in smallish pots, with their long stems cascading over the sides. In time, the vines may grow to several feet in length, or they may be kept more compact by periodically clipping excess growth. The cut sections of these stems can be set on top of a moist potting medium to establish new plants, but new plants may also be propagated from small tubers which are sometimes produced along the stems. It is also possible to establish a new plant by rooting a single leaf. While it is possible to propagate plants from seed, I am not aware of anyone who has tried this, as it is far easier to propagate plants from cuttings and tubers.....

The Christmas Cactus is perhaps one of the most familiar and commonly grown of the cactus species. It is widely available through the holiday season, being a standard at virtually any garden department. These are easy plants to grow and maintain, tolerating a wide variety of growing conditions and benign neglect. Where they are happy, they prove to be very long lived plants; (at one of our shows, a patron indicated that a member of his family was growing a Christmas cactus which had been passed down from his grandmother, and estimated that this plant had been in the family for over 90 years! Another plant in the possession of one of our members is estimated to have been passed down through the family for 150 years)! With a little bit of attention to basic requirements, these have also proven to be easy to bloom - reliably flowering every year (and some growers report that their plants frequently produce flowers 2 and even 3 times each year)....

Cissus quadrangularis is an unusual succulent member of the grape family, with vining 4 angled stems, with conspicuous constrictions at the nodes. The stem segments have the appearance of curious strings of rectangular sausages. Smaller plants typically produce smallish segments to about 1/2 in wide and several inches long, with branching stems growing to several feet in length. Older, more established plants will eventually produce stem segments to over 1 inch in diameter, and (in the largest plants which I have seen to date) to about a foot in length. The vines of established plants scramble on the ground and climb vegetation, and will eventually spread to at least several yards, and possibly to over 20 feet. Tendrils, adventitious roots, and ephemeral leaves are produced at the nodes. Mature plants will produce racemes of very small yellowish green flowers, followed by small inedible fruits which ripen to a red coloration....

Cissus tuberosa is distinct in that it is a caudicuform - producing massive prostrate stems which can eventually grow to 10 inches in diameter and several yards in length, with additional deciduous vines which can grow to 5 yards or longer during the growing season. The species is native to Puebla, Mexico, where it grows at an elevation of nearly 5000 feet. It usually grows on rocky outcrops where its heavily branched scrambling vines may cover rocks and nearby vegetation. During periods of drought, the annual vines die back, leaving only the massive caudex. While plants in habitat typically produce a horizontal caudex, plants in cultivation can be trained to grow upwards on a trellis or similar support, and should eventually produce a more upright caudex.


  Fall is for
Conophytums! Unlike many of the other cacti and succulents, which are now settling down for a period of winter dormancy, the Conophytums undergo a fall transformation which is little short of a metamorphosis. From shriveled, dry tufts of dead-looking leaves emerge miniature clusters of plump, highly succulent leaves, shortly followed by brightly colored aster-like flowers. The flowers, while being generally small, are often brightly colored in yellows, pinks, magenta and white, and are often bi- or even tri-colored with petals having whitish bases, and the flowers having bright yellow/orange centers. In some plants, the flowers are produced in such numbers that it is difficult to see the plant through the carpet of flowers. The entire transformation may take place in as little as about 2 to 3 weeks, and the daily progress of these plants as they break dormancy has to be seen to be believed....

Crassula falcata, the "Propeller Plant" is one of the more unusual members of the Genus crassula - which includes such familiar plants as the Jade Plant, the Watch Chain Plant, "Buddha's Temple" and many others. It produces clusters of upright and semi-upright stems to 3 feet tall, but most of the plants which I have seen in cultivation are generally smaller, usually growing to about 12 to 24 inches. The curiously twisted and curved succulent leaves are indeed reminiscent of a propeller; even its varietal name, falcata, meaning "shaped like a sickle" alludes to its uniquely shaped leaves. Individual leaves measure to about 4 or 5 inches in length, and to about 1 inch across. The entire plant has a dullish grey-green coloration, giving the leaves and stems a frosted, or waxy appearance.



Crassula ovata, alias the "Jade Plant" is understandably one of the succulent plant essentials. It is easy to grow, attractive, reliable, and is always readily available. Where it is happy, plants are long lived. Bill Hendricks, president of the Midwest Cactus and Succulent Society grows a plant which he first acquired nearly 55 years ago; over the years, it has been repeatedly restarted because it outgrew its allotted space. In all, it has been restarted from a cutting on 5 (or is it 7?) separate occasions - each time, the "daughter" plant grew again to over 5 feet in height, and each time, a new daughter plant was started from a cutting. Bill is poised to start this process again. Every year, visitors to our show and sale share similar stories of a plant which had been passed down the family through the generations, sometimes with histories approaching 100 years. While I would stop short of saying that this plant is indestructible (or immortal), it comes close.

Delosperma cooperi, one of the so called purple ice plants, has long been heralded as one of the most reliably hardy of the Delosperma species, tolerating temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, and (given a site with sharp drainage and full sun) it will tolerate a surprising amount of rain and snow. It is an excellent plant for hot, very sunny sites with very sharp drainage - where few other garden plants will succeed. Where it is happy, it is a rapid grower, quickly growing to a height of about 8 inches and spreading to about 2 feet or more....

The Dorstenias are a unique group of generally smallish, perennial, herbaceous, or shrubby plants belonging to the Moraceae, or Fig Family. The genus is widespread, occurring in northeast Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Madagascar, and Central and South America. According to online sources, approximately 105 species are presently recognized - although older references have indicated as many as 170 species had once been recognized. The majority of the species are non-succulent, but a number of species are succulent, - either producing a tuber-like rhizome, or a succulent caudex. The genus is characterized by its distinctive inflorescence: many minute (often microscopic) flowers are produced on a fleshy receptacle.

 During a joint field trip with the Midwest Cactus and Succulent Society some 10 years ago, to the home and greenhouse of Mike and Maureen Massara who run Out of Africa, many visitors were captivated by a remarkably attractive Dorstenia originating from Tabia Gorge, Somalia. The plant was at that time new to scienceand was still not described or named. It was eventually described, and given the name Dorstenia lavranii; it is distinct in being the only species of Dorstenia which is dioecious - in which the male (pollinate) and female (pistillate) flowers, are bourn on separate plants. This arrangement assures that no seedlings are the result of self pollination, as two or more plants (of the proper gender) are required to set seed....

Drimia haworthioides is an odd plant - more curious than than beautiful, that is occasionally encountered in the collections of "cactophyles".  It is currently classified as being in the greater Asparagus family (Asparagaceae), but over the years, it has been variously classified in the Hyacinth family (Hyacinthaceae), and the Lily family (Liliaceae). This species originates from southern Africa: In cultivation, it is appreciated for its unusual clustered leaf scales, which grow in compact rosettes just barely protruding above ground level in my plants....

 Duvalia sulcata subs. seminuda is atypical of the genus on several counts: The stems are heavily marked in dark green to maroon, and has especially long "teeth" or "prickles" on its stem; its flowers approach the upper limits for size in this genus, topping out at just under 2 inches in some plants ( the flowers on my plant are just under 1.5 inches across ). Also, this is one of only 4 species whose range extends beyond Southern Africa, with an extended range in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. I should say at this point that there is some controversy on the 4 species whose range extends into Eastern Africa and the Arabian peninsula: genetic studies suggest that these may not be as closely allied with other members of Duvalia as once thought, and these 4 species may eventually  be re-classified.....

 
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