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Accepted Scientific Name: Dorstenia foetida
Bull. Herb. Boissier iv. App. II. 120.
It is a strange, odd-looking relative of the fig. A single-stemmed plant, fully leafed out, looks like a miniature Palm Tree. The stem bears conspicuous and prominent round scars of petioles, inflorescences and stipules in a spiral pattern. The inflorescence is a weird, horned, tentacle-like disc-shaped structure called hypanthodium, that has given these plants the common name "Shield Flower". The "Shield" actually consists of a multitude of miniscule flowers.
Origin and Habitat: It is native of a vast area, comprising Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.
Habitat: Grows in decidous and succulent bushland, open places, and on rock outcrops, altitude 100-2100 m.
Dorstenia foetida Schweinf.
Bull. Herb. Boissier iv. App. II. 120.
- Dorstenia foetida Schweinf.
- Kosaria foetida Forssk.
- Dorstenia arabica Hemsl.
- Dorstenia crispa Engl.
- Dorstenia forskalii (J.F.Gmel.)
- Dorstenia horwoodii Rzepecky
- Dorstenia phillipsiae Hook.f.
- Dorstenia radiata Lamarck
- Dorstenia sp.
Dorstenia foetida subs. lancifolia (Rendle) Friis
Nordic J. Bot. 3(5): 538 (1983)
- Dorstenia foetida subs. lancifolia (Rendle) Friis
Dorstenia foetida subs. obovata (A.Rich.) Friis
- Dorstenia foetida subs. obovata (A.Rich.) Friis
Description: It is a perennial sub-shrub, stem succulent which may be branched or not. This is a very variable species especially in shape and size of leaves, and length of petioles and stipules.
Since the various forms are connected by intermediates it is impossible to recognize infraspecific taxa.
Stem (caudex): It has a thick, dark green- to mahogany-colored conical trunk, that will grow to 15 centimeters in diameter and 30-40 centimeters in height, older parts often with peeling bark. The stem bears conspicuous and prominent round scars of petioles, inflorescences and stipules in a spiral pattern,
Leaves: Evergreen or caducous, at stems' tips, light green to grayish-green narrowly lanceolate to broadly elliptical (sometime nearly orbicular or linear), 1-15 cm long, 0,5-4,5 cm wide, tip acute to shortly acuminate, or obtuse to rounded.
Base attenuate to cuneate or rounded. Margin rather ‘crinkly,’ ondulate and crenate to subentire or dentate. Lateral veins 3-15 pairs, Petiole 0,1-6 cm long, and relatively broad.
It has subpersistent to caducous leaf stipules, about 0,5 to 10 mm long.
Flowers: It produces grayish or green (or orange/pinkish), solitary, pedicellate, flower-like structures that are actually fruiting bodies called hypanthodiums. This inflorescence is a weird, horned, tentacle-like disc-shaped structure that has given these plants the common name "Shield Flower." The "Shield" actually consists of a multitude of miniscule flowers. 0, 5-2 cm wide.
Fruits: The seed pods open explosively when ripe and send the seed flying a considerable distance (up to 2 meters) - similar to some Euphorbias.
If you intend to keep the seeds, care must be taken to catch them with a piece of fabric or by other means.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Dorstenia foetida group
- Dorstenia foetida Schweinf.: has succulent stem which may be branched or not. It is a very variable in shape and size of leaves, length of petioles and stipules. Distribution:
- Dorstenia horwoodii Rzepecky: has small, crisped and crenulate leaves and tiny inflorescences on long, erect peduncles. Distribution: Nugaal Province, east of the village of Eyl. Somalia.
- Dorstenia sp.
Dorstenia sp. Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Dorstenia sp. Photo by: Cactus Art
New leaves in spring at growth resumption Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
Autumn: the leaves start sheding Photo by: Cactus Art
The inflorescence is a weird, horned, tentacle-like disc-shaped structure called hypanthodium,. Photo by: Cactus Art
During the winter months they tend to go at least partially dormant, and will exhibit some leaf loss. Photo by: Cactus Art
Cultivation and Propagation: Beloved by collectors, Dorstenia foetida is an excellent pot plant and it should make an interesting addition to a collection.
Growth rate: 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.
Exposure: It needs light shade, but the caudex should be in the shade, while the leaves prefer some sun. Avoid direct blasting sun in summer. Bright light if grown indoors.
Soil: It needs a very porous potting medium (add pumice, vulcanite, and perlite). It does better in a rather acidic soil.
Waterings: During the growing season, the plants appreciate a fair amount of water but allow the soil to dry slightly between watering, making sure that they never dry out completely, but keep dry during the winter after the leaves have died back. It rot easily and do NOT like a lot of water when it has no leaves. They have to be kept in a rather high air humidity.
Fertilizer: They are fertilized once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label.
Frost tolerance: Due to its African origin keep warm in winter, the minimum safe average temperature is 15°C, although it can go lower for short periods. It can be grown outdoors in frost-free climates, need anyway to kept above 10°C and dry in winter. It is very prone to rot in cool, wet conditions. USDA Zone 12, but does very well in containers.
Maintenance: Repot every two years. It like pots with generous drain holes.
Propagation: Dorstenias are usually propagated by seed. Seed germinate readily at 21° C. They can also be propagated by cuttings.
Warning: As with all Adenias, all parts of this plant are very toxic, and they should be handled with caution, particularly when pruning.
Uses: Though in Oman the tubers of Dorstenia foetida are cooked and eaten. We do not suggest plants for consumption!
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