Dorstenia gigas is commonly called Socotra Fig and Socotra Fig Tree, but there are not scientific synonyms for this plant.
Dorstenia gigas is native to the Socotra Islands where the plant grows on limestone hills and sheer cliff faces and can spread up to 500 m in altitude.
Dorstenia gigas is a beautiful caudiciform shrub-like succulent belonging to the Moraceae botanical family. The plant has a branched habit and can reach huge size, up to 5 m in height and 1,5 m in diameter. This is the largest species in the genus! The stem is woody, stout, heavily branched, with maroon bark. The succulent is spineless and forms a thick and woody subterranean caudex, from this the plant branches, producing clumps of spherical tubercles. The plants that form the caudex use their subterranean tuber to store water and cope with long periods of drought. The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, dark green in color, borne at the apex of the stems. Blooming occurs during the Spring and the blossoms are borne at the apex of the stems. The inflorescence is a cluster made of disc-shaped tiny flowers greenish to yellowish in color.
The plant has a slow growth rate but it is easy to cultivate. The plant needs a bright exposure, indirect sun-light, this will help development of flower buds. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. The maximum resistance to cold is 15°C so it is recommended not to expose the plant to lower temperatures. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 15 and 18 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. 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, clay and loam. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. Irrigation is proportional to the size of the pot, the position and the season. In Spring and Autumn the plant can be watered with a glass of water every 7-10 days; in summer it can be watered every 3-5 days. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant is used to growing in poor soils, for this reason it does not need abundant fertilization, it is sufficient to fertilize once in spring and once in summer. 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; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
The easiest and fast method of propagation is to use cuttings. 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. It is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C.
The name was given in honor of the german botanist Theodor Dorsten (1492–1552).
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