August 16, 2006

Madagascar Summer

Uncarina grandidieri has 3" wide flowers
Caudex or Caudiciform plants are perhaps the strangest plants which are collected by enthusiasts. What often look like a dead branch or stumpy apendage, with a weak, tiny green stem or leaf is often a priceless rarity. Cadiciform plants are those plants which have water storring capabilities, and and generally found in Africa, and Madagascar. They are usually unatractive, and in fact quite ugly with crusty bark, little foliage and dangerous thorns. Add that the fact that since they grow in sme of the harshest conditions on earth, the remain dormant, or, well, let's say they look dead, for more than half of the year. All of these reasons are why collectors go crazy over them. Anotehr reason to grow Caudex plants, is for thier blossoms, which appear rarely on the hottest of summer days and which contast so interstingly with the rough nature of these fascinating plants.

Uncarina is a genus from Madagascar with less than 10 species. I keep three in my collection and although not truly 'rare' excep[t by eBay standards, one needs to search specialty cactud nurseries to find them. Uncarina are easy enough to grow, even in a house or appartment. During the summer, they like lots of water, and when fall comes, after blooming, the plants, (which are really small shrubs) are allowed to go bone dry, and they remain so until spring.

Uncarina roeosliana has a smaller structure, overall.
I have found that after losing a few to rot in the greenhouse, that the Uncarina as well as other Caudex plants like to not only be dry in the winter, but they don;t want to be too cold either. The greenhouse is kept at 45 deg. F in the winter, and combined with the cold damp air, even though the pots are kept bone dry, they ultimately rot. Lately, they have been spending the winters indoors in a sunner picture window, in the studio, where it is still cool, near 60 deg.F., but more to thier liking.

U. roeosliana has no dark center in the flower.
Growth starts again, after the weather warms up in May, and the dead-looking plants suddenly start to sprout new shoots. But July, they are in full bloom again, and need o be watered every day, sometimes twice while in full, lush growth. A lite fertilizer is applied occaisionally, but really, no fussing except that they are kept in the glass house for the summer, in full sun where temperatures often reach 110d. F.

1 comment :

  1. Matt:

    You're making me very envious and salviating over the images and information about the various plants you grow. You seem to be a generalist with a few specialities! Every month sees something flowering.

    Hope that you're well.


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