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Origin and Habitat: Stapelianthus montagnacii is widespread in scattered localities in the Southwester Madagascar, from southeast of Tulear to Horombe.
Altitude range: 10-200 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: This species grows in flat terrains on fine sand or loam in spiny forest often in Didierea madagascariensis bush, or among thick leaf litter on the floor of Euphorbia tirucalli and Euphorbia intisy thickets. Plants have also been seen in small pockets of soil on limestone outcrops between stones and small bushes. They have brownish mottled stems and closely mimics the leaves litter on which they grow and are lost to sight in this environment, this camouflage allows them to escape detection and is a very effective strategy for escaping predation.
S. montagnacii is threatened in its natural habitat especially through fire.
Stapelianthus montagnacii (Boiteau) Boiteau & Bertrand
Cactus (Paris) No. 26, 116 (1950); cf. Rep. Pl. Succ., No. 3, 3 (1952); Jacobsen, Handb. Sukkulent. Pfl. ii. 1092 (1954)
- Stapelianthus montagnacii (Boiteau) Boiteau & Bertrand
- Stapelia montagnacii Boiteau
- Stapelianthus hardyi Lavranos
- Stapelianthus montagnacii f. cristata hort.
Description: Stapelia montagnacii is a small-sized perennial succulent, with creping stems often with ascending apexes forming dense to diffuse clumps. It is highly priced for its little speckled brick-red flower becoming creamy white in the throat. The dark red corona is seated on a short stalk in the centre.
Stems: 2.5-30 cm long, 6 to 12(-15) mm in diameter, surface covered with irregular and slight elevations, giving a blistered appearance, grey to creamy or black-green mottled with green or purplish. Tubercles forming about 6 ribs, abruptly tapering into small rudimentary leaves 1-2 mm long, lightly flattened above, recurved and gradually withering and falling off.
Flowers: Pedicels 7-12 mm long, 2-2.5 mm thick, spreading and holding flower facing horizontally. Corolla shallowly campanulate, outside maroon becoming cream with maroon lo red spots toward apex of lobes and base, inside concentrically speckled brick-red on whitish background, centrally white, (13-)18-25(-30) mm across hairy, hairs to 3 mm long usually slightly thickened toward apex and with spherical apical bristle. Tube campanulate, (4-)5-6(-10) mm long, 8-17 mm in diameter thickened around mouth. Corolla-lobes triangular, pointed erect to spreading (6-)8-9(-11) mm long, 5-6(-9) mm wide. Corona about 4-6 mm tall 6-8 across, dark red, seated on short stalk. Outer corona lobes 4-5 mm long, upright, concave outside and convex inside with groove down middle, bifid in upper third. Inner corona-lobes c. 0.5 mm long, triangular shorter than to equalling anthers.
Fruit (paired follicles): Spindle-shaped, with fairly stout horns diverging at an angle of 150°, surface smooth. mottled with longitudinal purple lines on a grey background.
Seed: Pear-shaped, swollen 5-7 long, 2.5-4 mm broad, pale-brown border, rest darker brown.
Similar species: S. montagnacii is similar to Stapelianthus madagascariensis, but has thicker stems and longer darker corolla-lobes. The outer corona lobes are only bifid in the upper third in S. montagnacii (divided to the middle in S. madagascariensis). S. montagnacii is also closely related to Stapelianthus hardyi, that has darker, deeply bowl-shaped flower with slightly thicker corolla, longer papillae on the corolla with spherical apical "bristle," and larger pollinia. They share the slightly thicker stems, the darker colour of the corolla, and material gathered some 30 km north of Tulear is intermediate between the two in many respects, and some authors suggests that the most suitable arrangement is to place S. hardyi and S. montalnacii together.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Stapelianthus montagnacii group
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae” Volume 5 Springer, 2002
2) Bruyns & Klak “Revision of Stapelianthus” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden pages 432-434 Volume 91, Number 3 2004
Cultivation and Propagation: Stapelianthus montagnacii is a xerophytic plant adapted to dry soils, but despite its provenance it is without doubt an easy species to grow and not difficult as commonly supposed only bearing in mind that this species benefits from slightly warmer winter than others.
Growth rate: It is a relatively rapidly growing and easily flowering species that will make large clumps given the best conditions. Most plants will offset readily, and clumps can be produced in a few years.
Soils: It likes very porous mineral cactus mix soil, pH 7,5 to 8,5 (mildly alkaline), but can become too elongated if compost is too rich.
Repotting: This plant needs plenty of space for its roots, repotting should be done every other year or when the it has outgrown its pot. Use pot with good drainage.
Watering: It needs regular watering, especially during the hottest summer days; provide also some light watering if the green house temperatures in winter are elevated. Either excessive or very scarce watering can induce rot.
Fertilization: Feed with a high potassium fertilizer in summer.
Frost Tolerance: For safe cultivation it is best to avoid freezing temperatures (minimum 5° C). In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity!!
Sun Exposure: Best for half-shade but grow well in full sun and full shade too. Tends to bronze in strong light, which encourages flowering, but is likely to suffer from sun scorch or stunted growth if over exposed to direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day in summer.
Diseases: This species is relatively resistant to cryptogamic diseases than others and is quite resistant to the “Balck spot” disease of asclepiads. Rot it is only a minor problem with stapelianthus if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Uses: It is an excellent plant for container growing. Cascading, clustering, great for a hanging display. Stems may possibly become purple and limp in winter, but revitalize in early spring. It always looks good and stays small. It look fine in a cold greenhouse and frame or outdoor in a rockery.
Propagation: Seeds and cuttings. Cuttings will root only in hot weather. Cuttings must be kept very dry to root. Seeds germinate readily if they are sown when fresh.
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