Ceropegia woodii ssp. woodii
Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii
C. woodii is native to Cape Provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Mozambique, Northern Provinces, Swaziland, Zimbabwe but was introduced and is widespread also in Bismarck Archipelago and Society Island. The plant in its habitat grows in well-drained soils with little water and some sun os in very hard conditions where other plant could not live!
C. woodii is a vine, herbaceous and caudiciform succulent belonging to the Asclepiadaceae botanical family. The plant has a falling habit and the stems can reach many meters of length up to 4 m. The succulent forms a subterranean root in order to store water and survive to drought periods. The underground root is called caudex and it is woody, thick, turnip-shaped and produced clumps of spherical tubercles. From the caudex the plant usually branches and from the tubercles it can be propagated easily. There is not a main stem but from the caudex the succulent produces many falling stems. The leaves are heart-shaped and opposite and it can remember a cyclamen or an ivy. The dark green leaves are fleshy and crowded on the stem and can turn the color to pale green under insufficient lighting. This popular houseplant is commonly grown in hanging baskets so the long branches may hang down with their leaves spaced out like a row of large beads. Blooming occurs from the early summer to the late autumn but it may continue until mid-winter if the right conditions are met. Numerous flowers are borne along the entire stem and the intricate structure forms like a temporary trap for pollinators in order to increase the plant’s chances of being pollinated. The flowers are wooly, bulbous at the base and tapered at the apex, made of 5 purple petals. From the flowers, horn-shaped pods develop bearing small seeds designed to spread thanks to a parachute-shaped structure that floats in the wind.
The plant has a slow growth rate but it easy to cultivate. The best sun-exposure is in bright place but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The minimum temperatures that the plant can withstand are 15° C, below this temperature it begins to suffer so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice soil, clay and soil. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly in Spring and Summer: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs. If the stems are too long you can cut and use them to propagate by placing them in moist sandy soil. If the caudex is covered the growth will be lush and fast, although if the caudex is exposed to sunlight the vegetation will reduce in size.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name “Ceropegia” is derived from the greek words “Keros”, wax, and “Pege”, fountain. That’s because of its flowers, fountains of wax, which have a swollen shape, really peculiar, and strange, waxy petals. C. woodi has been discovered by John Medley Wood (1827-1915), a botanist who was working in Durban Botanic Gardens. For its particular foliage arrangement, the plant get the common name of “chain of hearts”.
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