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Origin and Habitat: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Yemen
Altitude range: 800–1250 metres above sea level.
Habitat: In nature this species grows in humus-rich areas where moisture regularly comes from the sea.
- Senecio pendulus (Forssk.) Sch.Bip.
Senecio pendulus (Forssk.) Sch.Bip.
Flora xxviii. (1845) 500." 1845
- Senecio pendulus (Forssk.) Sch.Bip.
- Kleinia subulifolia (Chiov.) P.Halliday
- Monadenium subulifolium Chiov.
- Kleinia vermicularis C.Jeffrey
- Notonia trachycarpa Kotschy
- Senecio gunnisii Baker
- Senecio lunulatus (Chiov.) H.Jacobsen
ENGLISH: Inch Worm, Tapeworm Plant
FRENCH (Français): Plante-chenille
Description: The Inch Worm (Senecio pendulus) is a creeping cactus-like succulent with multi-coloured green stems and showy red blooms, belongs to the sunflower family. It's beautifully grey-green stems marbled in a pale green arch over and touch the soil where they root and send out new stems. It has long been favoured in succulent collections as a curiosity, as it recalls moth caterpillars that arch their backs when walking. Stems often turn purplish in strong light.
Habit: It is a dwarf, carpeters, perennial herb forming prostrate mats up to 50 cm in diameter of slender, "cucumber" shaped stems recurved and re-entering the soil, only to re-emerge a few cm away in a repeating pattern!
Branches: Highly succulent, jointed and brittle, (6-)12–15(-30) cm long, 1-2 cm in diameter, prostrate, creeping and rooting at the nodes, or pendulous from cliffs, variable in size and shape glabrous, waxy, green to bronze-green with white dots and darker purple arrowhead markings and rough from persistent dried leaf-scales.
Leaves: Scale-like, (2-)3-9(-18) mm long, ephemeral, shrivelling quickly but persisting for a while as pseuo-thorns.
Inflorescence: Terminal, rarely branched, 4-9 cm tall, peduncle broadened conically upwards.
Flowers (capitula): 1 - few, discoid, to 2 cm in diameter, terminal on erect 4–21 cm long green scapes bright orange-red similar in shape to Senecio stapeliaeformis. Bracts small, filiform. Involucre 15–20 mm long, 12–14 mm in diameter. Bracts of calyculus obscure or absent. Phyllaries 8-10 (-13), green with reddish margins, 15–20 mm long. Ray floretd none. Disc florets around 30, red, corolla 15–26 mm long, tube puberulous, slightly expanded in upper two-thirds, lobes c. 3 mm long.
Fruits (achenes): 2.5–5 mm long, ribbed, hairy, with a pappus 14 - 23 mm long.
Chromosome number: 2n = 20.
Similar species: Senecio mweroensis is close but non-snaking and leafier; Senecio stapeliiformis is stiffly erect with angled branches.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer, Heidelberg 2002
2) H. Beentje, C. Jeffrey & D.J.N. Hind “Flora of Tropical East Africa” Part Part 3, page 547 2005
3) Rowley G.D. “Succulent Compositae” 126-127 1994
Senecio pendulus Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano
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Cultivation and Propagation: Senecio pendulus is a winter-grower succulent that makes great potted specimens. In a hanging basket the stems will curl around and under. It needs bright light with ample airflow.
Soil: They grow well in a rich, porous soil with adequate drainage such us pumice, lava grit, and only a little peat or leaf-mould.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate growth rate.
Repotting: If potted, repot them preferably in the spring, if their roots become cramped. Generally, they should be repotted every other year in order to provide fresh soil. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they'll need larger containers. Fill about a quarter of the pot with broken crocks, gravel, etc. to promote good drainage. After repotting, do not water for a week or more. Use pot with good drainage. Eventually, as the plant becomes mature grow it slowly, and adopt a new repotting period, using intervals of every 2 - 3 years. Additionally grow it under drier conditions or with stronger sunlight.
Watering: Water sparingly from March until October so long as the plant pot is allowed to drain and not sit in a tray of water (It rots easily, especially if over wet), and also needs to be avoided wetting the body of this plant while it is in sunlight. Let dry between watering. From July watering should be reduced to force the plant to go into a state of semi dormancy, by September onward the plant will begin to grow and watering should be increased gradually until late November when the plant should be in full growth.
Fertilization: Low food needs. Feeding may not be necessary at all if the compost is fresh then, feed in early autumn only if the plant hasn't been repotted recently. Do not feed the plants from September onward as this can cause lush growth which can be fatal during the darker cold months.
Hardiness: When dormant, the plant is slightly cold tolerant (down to nearly -5° C or less), but when left out it is more sensitive to frost. However warmth throughout the year will increase the grower's success (at minimum temperatures from 5 to 15 centigrade degrees during winter). During the summer it is best to keep the plants outside where the temperature can rise to over 30 C with no harm to the plant.
Exposure: They do need a lot of light to develop their typical compact shape, but different clones vary in their tolerance of full sunshine. However some protection in light shade is recommended during the hottest hours in summer. Can burn when exposed to full sunlight in hot weather, but recovers fine if shaded from sun in hottest part of day. They can tolerate moderate shade, and a plant that has been growing in shade should be slowly hardened off before placing it in full sun as the plant will be severely scorched if moved too suddenly from shade into sun. If kept too dark they may become overly lush and greener and could be prone to rotting due to over watering.
Uses: It is suitable for small “desert” gardens, in association with other xerophytes. The plant's form and texture are compatible with other succulents and cacti. Where the open air cultivation is not possible due to the climate, it is to be cultivated in pot in order to shelter it in winter.
Diseases and pests: Watch for infestations of mealybugs, scale insects and spider mite. Prone to rot if overwatered. Rot is only a minor problem with cacti if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Propagation: It is easy from seed in spring but less so from cuttings. Cuttings grow easily once left to callous for several days and then planted in succulent soil. Seeds germinate in 14-21 days at 21°C.
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