Info

months. Since seasons, temperatures, and cultural conditions vary widely in every locality, it is impossible to say definitely when any given plant should be watered or rested The best guide is the condition of the plant itself When the resting period begins, usually with the coming of hot weather in summer, the plants take on a dull, lifeless look. They may shrivel to a papery skin, like the conophylums, or withdraw deeper into the soil, like the lithops; but as soon as the papery skin cracks, showing that a new growth is on its way or the plants lake on a fresher color in the cool autumn days, normal watering may be resumed once again. Of course the plants are not kept bone-dry during the resting period, but watered very sparingly to keep them alive but noi activc, barely moistened but not rotted.

The propagation of mesembryanthemums is generally very easy All types may be grown from seed, sown in spring or fall, if it is available and true to name Shrubby and trailing species may be propagated by stem cuttings the year round, but the more succulent types are best rooted about a month before the growing season starts. It is important that cuttings of the smaller species consist of a complete plant body with a bit of the stem attached, as slices of leaves will not root. Occasionally the clustering species may be divided, but it is important here too that each division have part of the original stem attached or roots of its own.

The Milkweed Family—The Asclepiadaceae

Few gardeners realize that the Asclepiadaceae (as-klee-pee-a-day'-see-ee), or Milkweed family, with two hundred and fifty genera and two thousand species, contains not only the common milky-juiced perennials we call milkweeds, but such choice ornamental plants as the Wax Vine. Hova carnosa; the Madagascar Jasmine. Stephanotis floribunda; and a wealth of fine succulenLs native to semi-arid regions from India and

the Middle East to Africa and Spain, ' hese succulent milkweeds are largely found in two tribes, the Stapelieae istap-ch-li'-ec-ee) and the Ceropegieae (see-roh peej'-ee-ec)t both of unusual interest to succulent collectors.

The Stapeiia Tribe. The twenty genera and nearly four hundred species of the Stapeiia (stah-pee'-li-ah) tribe are among the most curious of all succulent plants. They are all stem succulents, branching from the base to form tiny tufted plants an inch or two high up to large bushes three feel or more in height, but the greatest number rarely grow more than a fool tall. Their smooth, thick, succulent stems vary in cross section from circular to many-angled, ihe majority be ing four- or six-angled. Along these angles, or ribs, are borne

innumerable fleshy teeth, or tubercles, which mark the position of the primitive leaves which have long since disappeared from every member of this tribe save one, Frerea indica (free'-ree-ah), a rare leafy ancestral type that is to the Siapetiads what the Pereskia is to the Cacti,

Even more striking than the plants, however, which actually seem very much like cacti to ihe beginner, are the unique flowers. The blossoms of this tribe are generally in the brm of a five-pointed star, sometimes widely expanded, sometimes closed to form a saucer or bell. They range from miniatures less than an inch in d ameter to giants eighteen inches across that rank among the world's largest flowers. But more important than shape or size are the strange colors and odors of these blooms. Most of them look and smell for all the world like rotting fish or meat, hence their popular name, Carrion

Flowers.

The reason for this curious adaptation in color and odor is that these plants are pollinated by blowflies, which are attracted to the flowers in great numbers and lay their eggs on the petals under the impression that they are bits of putrid meat, Although the maggots may hatch they cannot survive, for there is nothing here for them to feed on. The lurid brown.

red, or yellow petals which are so ingeniously marked or fringed with animal-like hairs serve only to lure ihe msccts by sight as well as smell.

This dependence on flies for pollination is due largely to the unusual construction of the flowers in this family The pollen grains of the Milkweeds are not loose and easily scattered by wind or chance, as they are in many other plants but, as in the orchids, are formed into waxy bodies which cannot be transferred without the aid of insects. To complicate mat* ters further, in the Milkweeds these liny pollen bodies are firmly attached in pairs with clamplike organs called pollen carriers As the flies are attracted to the heart of the flowers by sight and scent and try to probe the center of the blossom, their snouts or legs become caught in the pincer-like pollen carriers. The frightened insects struggle to pull free and come away with the waxy pollen masses attached to their bodies. They carry these masses to the next flower and the next, where the process is repeated until pollination takes place.

Another interesting feature of this tribe is that the fruits do not develop until long after flowering. They usually appear the following year as twin lo; nedo-shaped capsules which split along one side to reveal numerous seeds each with a parachute of silky hairs which help it become wind-borne.

Certainly the best known of the Stapeliads is the genus called Stapefia. There are about one hundred species and varieties of this popular succulent, virtually all of them native to South Africa. The stapelias are small, clustering plants with soft, erect, four-angled stems. Most of them bear relatively large, flat, star-shaped flowers in summer which are so strangely colored and marked that they very nearly resemble starfish, hence their popular name. Starfish Flower Almost every succulent collection begins with the common S vara-gnia, whose two-inch yellow flowers heavily spotted maroon and stubby, finger-like stems have won for it the nickname

0 0

Post a comment