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Origin and Habitat: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique (possibly in DR Congo too).
Altitude range: 500-1200 metres altitude.
Habitat and ecology: Fockea multiflora is a widespread and sometimes frequent species in rocky areas on low hills or among rocks around the base of hills in open, Mopane or Brachystegia woodland or river banks. F. multiflora is not threatened.
- Fockea multiflora K.Schum.
Fockea multiflora K.Schum.
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 17: 145 1893
ENGLISH: Python Vine, Elephant Vine, Python Kambro, Pythonranke, Pythonwein
LOZI (siLozi): Nanyama
TSONGA (xiTsonga): Chamulama
Description: Fockea multiflora is a succulent climber with a swollen tuberous trunk (caudex), up to 50(-60) cm in diameter at the base with very long branches growing intertwined in all directions. The trunks are extremely diverse in shape. The plant contains an abundance of milk sap which is poisonous. With or without leaves in the flowering season. The leaves with white-felted lower faces are significant for this species. The leaves, fruit and seeds of F. multiflora are also much larger than those of any other Fockea species. F. multiflora is also unusual in that the inflorescences arise in large number on young growth.
Stems: Up to 10-15 m long, sprawling on ground or twisting around trees for support, rarely shrub-like, rather stout, sparsely leafy or leafless during flowering, pubescent on the young parts, basally with massive root-tuber. Tuber irregularly shaped, partly above-ground, mostly tapering into ascending twining stems to the thickness of an arm, bark brown, more or less smooth. Flowering branches 7-10 mm in diameter, fleshy, becoming woody, young tomentose.
Leaves: Tomentose on both sides, opposite, simple and entire,often densely clustered on short shoots. Stipules absent. Petiole 6-9 mm long; blade 20-60 mm long, 8-30 mm broad, ovate to elliptic, more or less acute, truncate or subcordate at the base, lower face white-felted with raised midrib.
Inflorescences (cymes): Corymb-like, many-flowered, axillary; peduncles 8-20 mm long; pedicels 9-20 mm long, subtomentose to densely hispid.
Flowers: Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, short-hairy, sweetly scented, yellow to green. Sepals 3 mm long, lanceolate and pubescent. Corolla yellow to green glabrous on both sides or most minutely papillate (not pubescent) within. Tube campanulate 1.5-2.5 mm long. Corolla lobes 7-10 mm long, 2 mm broad, rotate, oblong, subacute, revolute along the margins outside glabrous, inside pubescent. Corona white. 20-toothed, besides the teeth within. Coronal tube 2-3 mm long, the 5 longer teeth 2-3 mm long, spirally coiled at the tips, each alternating with a group of 3 shorter recurved teeth 0.5-1 mm long; teeth within the tube 5, filiform, 1-2 mm long, with or without a very short or rudimentary tooth at about their middle on the dorsal side, adnate nearly to the top of the tube, forming 5 keels on the lower part of the latter. Anther-appendages large, inflated-oblong. Style with 2 rounded knobs at its apex.
Blooming season: Flowers comes numerous at the end dry season between August and October (or rarely in December).
Fruit (follicle): Usually single, fusiform, 10-22 cm long, 1.5-3 cm in diameter, smooth, many-seeded.
Seeds: Ovate, flattened, 10 mm long 7-8 mm broad, shortly winged.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae” Volume 4 Springer, 2002
2) Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A “Medicinal plants 2” PROTA, 2013
3) Bruyns, P.V. & Klak, C., “A systematic study of the Old World genus Fockea (Apocynaceae-Asclepioidese).” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 93(4): 535-564 2006
4 )N. E. Brown. “Flora of Tropical Africa” Vol 4 Part 1, page 231 1904
5) Neuwinger, H.D.,. “African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs.” Chapman & Hall, London, Unit Kingdom. 1996
6) Abish, E. & Reichstein, T., “Orientierende Untersuchungen einiger Asclepiadaceen and Peri plocaceeen.” Helvetica Chimica Acta 45: 2090-2126. 1962
7) Neuwinger, H.D. “African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications.” Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 2000
Fockea multiflora Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano
The gallery now contains thousands of pictures, however it is possible to do even more. We are, of course, seeking photos of species not yet shown in the gallery but not only that, we are also looking for better pictures than those already present. Read More...
Cultivation and Propagation: Fockea multiflora is of easy cultivation and hardy. Although it shows decreased activity in the January – April period, it never goes into complete dormancy and always carries some leaves. Conversely it can be deciduous in winter if kept cold and dry. It is a particular favourite of caudiciform plant enthusiasts.
Growth rate: Plants grow slowly and caudex take many years to enlarge.
Watering: The plant will take regular water and fertilizer in summer. However, that species seems to hate being wet for any extended period and rot easily especially in winter if overwatered.
In winter keep on the dry side and water only enough to keep the tuber from shrivelling.
Soil: It grows well in most soils, and only requires very fast drainage.
Frost tolerance: Due to its African origin it cannot tolerate freezing temperature but should be able to handle 7 degrees Celsius very easily. Plants grown outdoors may endure relatively wet, cold rainy winters. It prefers sun or light shade, but the tuber should stay constantly in the shade.
Maintenance: It is a vigorous twiner and is best trained around a hoop or up a framework, but tends to vine around nearby plants if kept in a pot on a shelf, so it needs to be controlled a bit... give it something to wind around to keep it away from the other plants.
Disease and pests: The fockeas are pest free outdoors, but may attract whiteflies if kept in humid greenhouse environments, and some kind of control might be needed. The plant are also attractive to mealy bugs and the aphid occasionally feeds on young stems.
Rot: Rot it is only a minor problem with Fockea if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much. It is very unlikely to lose this plant from root rot from excessive water. Reliable as a permanent collector's plant.
Propagation and planting: Fockea multiflora is propagated through seeds and stem cuttings.
Poisoning: Throughout its distribution area the latex is used an arrow poison ingredient, and in Namibia the latex is put in food as a criminal poison or to poison large predators.
Traditional medicine: In Namibia an extract of the aerial parts in brandy is rubbed on the back to treat backache. Its use in local medicine remains restricted though, because of its toxicity.
Food uses: In Tanzania the sweetly scented flowers are sometimes prepared as a vegetable. [We do not suggest plants for consumption!]
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