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Accepted Scientific Name: Petopentia natalensis (Schltr.) Bullock
Kew Bull. 1954: 362 1954
Origin and Habitat: Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga Republic of South Asfrica.
Altitude: 50-700 metres above sea level.
Habitat: Petopentia natalensis grows mostly along the coast.
Description: Petopentia natalensis is a liana ( perennial-climber) with a tuberous rootstock that is often epigeal (above ground) and constricted into segments. This is the only species of the monotypic genus Petopentia (Anagram of the genus name Pentopetia, where the taxon was previously classified).
Tuberous root: Globose, large, to 40 cm in diameter (or more?), sometimes several lined up in a row, bark red-brown, finely fissured.
Stems: Twining, climbing up to 15 m tall, glabrous, with white latex, becoming woody, often reddish or with red-brown verruculose, wax-like bark.
Leaves: Smooth and shiny, leathery, which have a distinctive purple underside, 8-13 cm long, 2-4 cm Wide,broadly ovate with a rounded to cordate base and a prominent purple midrib and petiole-1-5 cm long.
Flowers: About 3 cm in diameter, corollas rotate and greenish yellow with green to brownish purple narrowly triangular corolla lobes with acute apices and rather thick texture with a single erect filiform corona appendage at the base. The cone shaped gynoceum is exserted above the corolla. As is typical for subfamily Periplocoideae, the pollen is granular and not in pollinia.
Remark: The cauduciforms in the trade with the tags Fockea tugelensis and Fockea natalensis have proven not to be that species but are actually Petopentia natalensis. Petopentia is easily distinguished from Fockea even when not in flower. The true affinities of the genus are with Raphionacme and its allies in subfamily Periplocoideae.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Venter H. & Verhoeven R. (2001). "Diversity and Relation ships within the Periplocoideae (Apocynaceae)" - Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 88(4): 550-568 2001
2) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae: Asclepiadaceae” Volume 4 Springer, 2002
3) Petopentia natalensis in: S. African J. Bot. 88: 427 2013
4) Steve Jankalski “Fokea, Cibirhiza and Potepentia” revised version of the article that originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of The Baltimore Areole, newsletter of the Cactus & Succulent Society of Maryland. On line [http://www.cactus-mall.com/clubs/fockea.html]
5) Berthold Seemann "The Journal of Botany, British and Foreign", Volumes 32-33 R. Hardwicke, 1894
Cultivation and Propagation: Petopentia natalensis is an excellent climbing plant in culture as it stands the extremes of heat and cold better than most plants, it can quickly become overwhelming, it is better to install support for stems that can reach 7 meters, and when in bloom it is a very interesting plant.
Growth rate: Although the vines can reach lengths of 15 m in the wild, cultivated plants generally extend 1,5-2 m, twisting around supports to which they cling or hanging down in attractive cascades from suspended pots.
Potting medium: It benefits from being potted up in a very well-draining and porous potting medium that allows some air to get to the roots; typical mixes include, peat, with some fibrous soil and sand along with large-grade drainage material such as perlite, pumice, or lava grit. The medium needs to be moisture-retentive.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements. Micronutrient deficiencies are occasional problems. Micronutrient deficiencies only show up on soil with a high pH.
Watering: With its succulent tubers it's quite adapt at storing water for longish periods of time between waterings. Water regularly in summer, but do not overwater ( wet-sensitively) and let the plants to dry out between watering and then water again. Its roots are easily lost in pots that stay damp for any length of time. Keep quite dry with ample airflow in winter (It would probably tolerate one watering a month). In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity. Care must be taken with watering as they tends to become swollen and untidy in growth habit if given too much water and shade.
Exposition: This species prefers bright light, but will tolerate much less. Outside half shade to shade (filtered sunlight or afternoon shade tolerated) , inside it will need a reasonably light room in order to actually grow, although it will still get by even in a shadier spot and can be positioned almost anywhere in homes or offices. It subject to sunburn if exposed to direct sun for too long. Tends to bronze in strong light, which encourages flowering and heavy leaves production.
Hardiness: The optimal temperature is 10-30°C. Minimum temperature: 4 ° C.
Spring: When winter ends and they begin to grow again, they will require much water and soaking the pots will no longer put the plants at risk for rot. In the spring they will grow well in partial shade and leaving them out in the rain may provide them with the water they need.
Summer: In the summer months they will tolerate heavy rain, but will be just as happy if the season is dry. They will tolerate hot weather outdoors as long as they are kept in strongly filtered light and this will encourage them to flower. They also enjoy some fertiliser. Moving the plants as they are developing buds may cause them to spontaneously abort the flowers all together.
Autumn: In the fall keep them outdoors until the night time temperatures drop below the 10°C.
Winter: Winter care presents no problems at 10° C with plenty of light. In winter be sure to take extra precautions to keep them dry, because damp cool conditions when the plants are resting is an invitation to fungal infections, but - according to temperatures –some occasional lit watering may be useful.
Maintenance: Prune the plant lightly to keep it tidy.
Repotting: Re-pot every 2 years.
Pest and diseases: Petopentia are generally fairly easy to grow, especially if kept pest-free. They are very susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs, and damage from these may well initiate fungal attack. Any time when there is a dead or dying stem it is important to remove it immediately and completely before other healthy stems can become ill too.
Toxicity: Not known
Propagation: Sowing and cuttings.
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