Echidnopsis dammaniana is native to North-eastern Africa, in particular in an area that includes Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Its native habitat are rocky outcrops in slopes and plateaus at an altitude around 1000-2300 meters above the sea level.
E. dammaniana is a creeping succulent spreading in all direction above the ground forming rounded cushions. Its stems are succulent, rigid, 1-2 centimeters thick and up to 60 centimeters long. They are greyish green in colour, greener at their base and more reddish-brownish at their top. The stem is furrowed by four or five-angled tubercles, regularly lined up to form structures similar to the ribs of cacti. Echidnopsis dammanniana, nevertheless, is not a cacti: it belongs instead to the family of Apocynaceae. Although, like all Echidnopsis, it is often confused with a cacti, also because of the white to brownish buttons at the top of the tubercles that definitely look like a cacti’s areoles. The stems sprawl in all directions like tentacles: the name of the genus, “Echidnopsis”, refers precisely to this fact, meaning literally “similar to a snake”. In this species, they are also slightly wrinkled, making it even more similar to a reptile’s skin.
Flowers are solitary and sprout from the areoles, in the apical part of the stem. They are tiny but very beautiful, for the bright red colour of their five petals. The central part of the flower is also striking: it consists in a circular brown part that hosts the stamens and the ovary and the yellow, beautifully jagged basal part of the petals, that look like a rounded flame.
Echidnopsis dammaniana is not difficult to grow. Here below are our tips:
Echidnopsis are not difficult plants to grow. The species with prostrate stems which look like tentacles are perfect for hanging pots. Here are our cultivation tips:
Echidnopsis usually require plenty of light during the year. E. dammanniana, however, prefers filtered sunlight or partial shade.
It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 5 °C. It’s thus recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
Water moderately, always waiting for the soil to dry up completely before each watering. It is sufficient to water once a week in spring and summer, once every two months in autumn, and to suspend completely any irrigation in winter. In the case of hot weather, this species enjoys plenty of water, always letting the soil dry up first.
The ideal soil is well-draining and porous, better if further enriched with 50% or more of inert materials such as pumice, lapilli or clay.
They do not need frequent fertilization: it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year. A fertilizer for succulents, low in Nitrogen and rich in Phosphorus and Potassium, will do good for sure.
Repotting is necessary every two years.
Propagation of Echidnopsis is usually carried out through seeds to be sown in Spring in a sandy substrate, or through stem cuttings, as Echidnopsis’s stems easily put root when planted. The cut stem should be allowed to dry up for a day before being planted. Lie it (without burying it) on the substrate, that should be maintained moist until the cutting puts roots.
Its name derives from Greek and literally means “with the appearance of a snake”, referring to its stems which, in most species, with growth tend to crawl on the ground.
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