Ceropegia saundersii is native to South-eastern and Southern Africa. Its main countries of distribution are South Africa and Mozambique. Its habitat are frost-free area, with warm climates, at altitudes between 340 to 1000 above the sea level.
Ceropegia saundersii, better known as Ceropegia sandersonii, which is its accepted name, is a climbing, perennial plant. It is very variable and, in fact, there are many synonyms of the main name, resulting and representing multiple forms, differing in leaf colour and shape of the flowers. It is also called “Parachute Plant”, “Fountain Flower”, and “Umbrella Plant”. Its climbing attitude might turn also prostrate, under the appropriate conditions. If you make it climb, it can reach 4 meters in length! It consists in fleshy, glabrous or slightly hairy stems, 5 millimeters thick and up to 2 meters long. Leaves are heart-shaped and fleshy, 3 to 5 centimeters long and 3 centimeters in width. They are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. Flowers are showy, as in all Ceropegias. Their petals are fused together in an elongated tube, curved upwards and opening in a cage-like structure that looks like a parachute (that’s the reason of the common name of this plant). The pale green of the base of the tube has also darker vertical stripes that make it even more fashinating. The flower is pale-green/yellowish and has 5 holes that give a glimpse of the leopard-print, made of different shades of green, that characterizes the “ceiling” of the “parachute”. These 5 holes are also referred as “windows”: from this comes the name “windowed flower”. The “roof” of the parachute is leopard-printed as well, with dark green-blackish spots on a light green, weakly tinged in pale purplish-red, background. Pollinators are flies, and the “parachute” is a trap ensuring that the insect does not leave unless loaded with pollen. It gets caught in the small hairs growing on the edge of the “windows” and is in fact released only when the flower starts to wither and the hairs get weaker. The blooming season occurs in Summer and Autumn. The fruits are usually follicles growing in pairs, up to 140 millimeters long and around 8 wide, with a wrinkled surface and green to purplish. They look like string beans.
Ceropegia saundersii is not difficult to grow. Here below are our tips:
Choose a bright spot, but not exposed to direct sunlight.
Ventilation is important to obtain a healthy specimen.
Ceropegia saundersii loves warm temperature: it will resist up to 45ºC. In Winter, never leave it at temperatures below 10-15ºC.
Water regularly your Ceropegia saundersii, making sure that the substrate never dries out completely, but at the same time that it doesn’t stay moist all the time. Also, remember to occasionally spray their foliage. From August onwards, you should gradually decrease watering frequency until completely stopping to water in Winter. In particular, water once a week from August to January, stop completely to water in January and February, and resume regular watering from March onwards.
Choose a well-draining substrate, better if sandy, with a little grit. Extra leaf mould added would provide the ideal solution.
During the growing season, fertilize once with a product specific for succulents.
Ceropegia saundersii can be easily grown from seed. Sow them in a well-drained compost and keep it moist until they germinate: this happens in 14 to 28 days, at 18–21ºC. Make sure to treat the seedlings for damping off and fungal infections. Also cuttings are possible: detach the outgrows from the plant in the beginning of Spring and replant in a porous substrate, paying attention to keep the pot in a warm and humid place, as if it would be a cutting.
The genus name Ceropegia is derived from 2 Greek words: “keros” meaning ‘wax’ and “pege”, meaning ‘fountain’, referring to the oddly-shaped flowers with long tubesexpanding at their tops. The species name “sandersonii”, instead, was chosen by Decaisne in his original description to honour a journalist called John Sanderson who moved in KwaZulu-Natal in 1851. Sanderson liked to collect wild plants as a hobby: he used to send the specimens to JD Hooker at Kew (England) and to Harvey at Dublin (Ireland), giving a good contribution in botany researches. Very little information is known on original use of this species by indigenous people. According to some authors, stems and leaves were eaten by native people and have an good flavour. This is however still uncertain. Many other members of this genus, by the way, produce tubers and fleshy roots that are officially edible and used as a survival food.
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