Cephalopentandra

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Habitat: Africa: in particular Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, in deciduous forests and woodland, in semiarid climates and sandy soils, between 40 and 1000 meters above sea level.
Cultivation: They require plenty of water in Spring and Summer, a sunny spot and a well-draining substrate.
Curiosity: The caudex of a Cephalopentandra can weigh until 10 kg!!!

– KEY FEATURES

Cephalopentandra is a genus of unusual perennial plants, equipped with a caudex. A caudex is a smart evolutionary device adopted by plants from inhospitable environments to stock water and nutrients, consisting in an enlargement of the plant’s trunk which can take many different forms: it can be lumpy or smooth, completely covered by substrate or not, etc…

In the case of Cephalopentandra, the caudex appears to be particularly lumpy, so that many botanical descriptions compare it to a volcano completely covered in solified lava running down it. Actually, for its unusully conical shape, it looks like a strange mountain, with the top covered in leaves.

Cephalopentandras belong to the family of Cucurbitaceae: that means that they are related with cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchinis, strange as it may seem!
Like pumpkins, these plants are vining: from the fat caudex, every year, they produce climbing stems up to 1 meter in lenght, soft and elastic when young, covered in the same pale bark of the caudex as they grow old.
Cephalopentandra flowers are small, generally yellow as in C. ecirrhosa. Leaves are simple, green, grouped in tufts.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Actually, there are 5 scientific plant names of species included in the genus Cephalopentandra. Nevertherless, only one of those is an accepted species name: Cephalopentandra ecirrhosa.

TIPS FOR GROWING

Cephalopentandras are not so difficult to grow and will give you a lot of satisfaction if you just follow a few tips:

  • Cephalopentandras require sunny spots, avoiding anyway the hottest hours in Summer.
  • Cephalopentandras love to have plenty of water, so they should be watered regularly during Summer: if you go on vacation is better to entrust them to a friend!
  • After you water your Cephalopentandra, check if the soil is actually wet by dipping the finger in the first 15 cm of soil to make sure you have not only wetted the surface. In Winter instead they should be watered more seldom: caudex risk to rot if the soil is maintained wet at low temperatures.
  • In Winter pay attention to cold temperatures: the minimum tolerated temperature for Cephalopentandras is 15ºC.
  • The type of substrate we should use is sandy or anyway very well-drained. Clay pots are better: their porosity helps the plant to have a better drainage.
  • Repotting is necessary every two years.

Propagation of Cephalopentandras can be carried out through seeds and cuttings.

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