Ceraria

Family: Didieraceae
Habitat: Karoo desert, in South Africa, and Namibia.
Cultivation: Not so difficult. Water it whenever the soil is completely dry, put it in a bright spot at mild temperatures, and choose a well-draining substrate.
Curiosity: Its name comes from Greek and literally means “little horn”, referring to the forked branches, similar to a horn.

KEY FEATURES

Ceraria is a genus of succulent plant in the family Didiereaceae. Ceraria are often also called Portulacarias, because of the confusion in the botanical classification. According to the classification system used, Ceraria can have different names.

Its name comes from Greek and literally means “little horn”, referring to the forked branches, similar to a horn.

Ceraria are native to southern Africa, mainly South Africa, were they inhabit arid environments, in the Karoo desert. It is a semi-desert area with a remarkable succulent biodiversity, which host plenty of succulent species.

They are very slow growing succulent shrubs which reach 1 meter in height, poorly branched and with an often papery bark. Also, depending on the species, they may have a woody, enlarged base, which allows the plant to store water (this global aspect gives it the common name of “elephant bush”).
This wooden base is called “caudex”. The caudex is an evolutionary device typical of plants native to arid or semi-arid habitats, and serve as a store of nutrients and water against tough periods.

From the caudex, a wooden, cylindrical stem, generally erect and poorly branched, sprout. The branching follow a dicotomic pattern: this means that any new branching form two branches which grow in opposite direction, with an angle of 90ºC between each other.

Its leaves are ovoid and very small to minimize evaporation and retain as much water as possible; they often fall off at the slightest touch, but soon they grow back. In summer, however, to reduce transpiration even more, the plant loses all its leaves and goes into vegetative rest – a necessary period – so that in the following season it can reinvigorate itself and embellish your environments with its unique and unmistakable appearance!
They are rather numerous, small and dense, often digitiform (such as in C. namaquensis), and sometimes more oval and paired in opposite couples.

Flowers are often very small, borne in dense clusters by instead incredibly long stems (until 5 to 8 meters tall in C. armiana!). This is probably to protect the flower from a species of rodent typical of that zone, the dassie rat (Petromys typicus), for whom the flowers would be a perfect food. In addiction, having the seeds formed far above the plant canopy enhance the distance of seed dispersion through the wind.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Here below are a few accepted species in the genus Ceraria. Check our online shop to find them!

  • C. carrissoana
  • C. fruticulosa
  • C. kaokoensis
  • C. kuneneana
  • C. longipedunculata
  • C. namaquensis
  • C. pygmaea

TIPS FOR GROWING

Ceraria is not a tough plant to cultivate. Here are our cultivatoin tips:

  • It requires an exposure to full sun, however you can also place it in partial shade if it still receives plenty of light throughout the year.
  • It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 6 °C. It is thus recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
  • Water moderately and only when the soil is completely dry. It is enough to water it once a week in spring and summer, reducing it to once every two months in autumn and to suspend it completely in Winter.
  • A well-draining and mineral-rich substrate is an optimal solution, for example a standard cacti mix, to which pumice can be added.
  • They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.
  • Repotting necessities are variable depending on the species.

Cerrarias are easily propagated from tip cuttings. It is best to take cuttings during spring and put them to root in sand. A tip cutting with at least 2-4 leaves should root within 3 weeks. Grafting is also very used and gives the best results.

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