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Accepted Scientific Name: Brachystelma circinatum E.Mey.
Comm. Pl. Afr. Austr. (Meyer) 196 1838. E.Mey. & Drège
Origin and Habitat: Namibia and South Africa (Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape)
Brachystelma circinatum E.Mey.
Comm. Pl. Afr. Austr. (Meyer) 196 1838.
- Brachystelma circinatum E.Mey.
- Dichaelia circinnata (E.Mey.) Schltr.
- Brachystelma bolusii N.E.Br.
- Brachystelma commixtum N.E.Br.
- Brachystelma filiforme Harv.
- Brachystelma galpinii (Schltr.) N.E.Br.
- Dichaelia galpinii Schltr.
- Brachystelma ovatum Oliv.
- Brachystelma pallidum (Schltr.) N.E.Br.
- Dichaelia pallida Schltr.
- Dichaelia brachylepis Schltr.
- Dichaelia cinerea Schltr.
- Dichaelia macra Schltr.
- Dichaelia microphylla S.Moore
- Dichaelia undulata Schltr.
- Dichaelia zeyheri Schltr.
Description: It is a monoecious caudiciform plant, commonly known as "Baboon's Cucumber" with lots and lots of herbaceous climbing or creeping vines growing rapidly from the swollen base and looking like an English ivy with a tuber. The shoots emerge from a massive underground tuberous rootstock (or caudex). This tuber is a water-storage organ so it is very resistant to drought. In cultivation the tuber is raised over the ground so that it can be seen and is especially cultivated for its looks. Architecturally it is a real stunner. When the “caudex” shape is adequately in evidence this plant is incomparable. The plant is quite variable and in cultivation a number of very different plants are, all referred to as Kedrostis africana creating some confusion.
Caudex: Large, up to 50 cm across, simple or branched, woody, somewhat flattened, stone-like of variable shape, with a distinctive fissured, pale grey-green to pale-brown rind covered in small warts
Vines: Annual, 1-6 metres in length, thin, green glabrous or nearly so, with filiform simple (unforked) tendrils.
Leaves: Alternate, 6-10 cm long, triangula in outline and more or less deeply palmately divided into 3 or 5 lobes, segments pinnatifid, lobes lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, mucronate, entire or dentate, the terminal longer. Petiole 4-12 mm long. Surface slightly rough. Upper leaves much smaller.
Male flowers: Minute, 1 to 12 in short racemes on 2-8 cm long peduncle, petals bristly green-yellow to whitish or cream.
Female flowers: Solitary or few in fascicles. Petals green-yellow to whitish or cream
Blooming seson: Flowers unfailingly every year in summer.
Fruit: 8-15 mm in diameter, roundish, orange/yellow to reddish.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures.
1) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
2) Klaus Kubitzki “Flowering Plants. Eudicots: Sapindales, Cucurbitales, Myrtaceae” Springer Science & Business Media, 10/Dec/2010
3) C. Jeffrey “Flora of Tropical East Africa” 1967
4) C. Jeffrey “Cucurbitaceae” in: Flora Zambesica. 1978
5) Meeuse, A.D.J. “The Cucurbitaceae of southern Africa.” in: Bothalia 8: 1-111.1962
Cultivation and Propagation: It grows well, though very slowly, but it possible to increase the speed of growth to some extent by providing adequate amount of water, warmth, and fertilizer during the active growing season, but it’s susceptible to rotting if too wet. It likes a sunny position, but avoid direct blasting sun in summer. It should be watered regularly in Summer and kept drier in Winter. It like pots with generous drain holes, need a very porous, slightly acidic potting medium (add pumice, vulcanite, and perlite). It can be grown outdoors in frost-free climates, need anyway to kept above 0°C and dry in winter.
Manteinance: Repot every two years.
Propagation: Seeds or cuttings.
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