Edithcolea

Family: Apocynaceae
Habitat: Central Africa, from the Great African Lake Region to the Horn of Africa.
Cultivation: Edithcolea has a reputation for not being easy to cultivate. Semi-shaded exposure, careful watering and a well-drained substrate, however, will surely do well.
Curiosity: This genus was named after Edith Cole, who collected some specimens in the Henvenya valley, in northern Somalia. Together with Louisa Lort-Phillips, she picked up a lot of specimens of then still unknown plants during a botanical expedition from erbera to Golis mountains, led by Ethelbert Edward Lort Phillips. These two botanists collected almost 70 unknown species during the expedition!

KEY FEATURES

Edithcolea is a monospecific genus of the family Apocynaceae, in the Stapeliae tribe. It thus inclued only one species, Edithcolea grandis.

This genus was named after Edith Cole, who collected some specimens in the Henvenya valley, in northern Somalia. Together with Louisa Lort-Phillips, she picked up a lot of specimens of then still unknown plants during a botanical expedition from erbera to Golis mountains, led by Ethelbert Edward Lort Phillips. These two botanists collected almost 70 unknown species during the expedition!

Edithcolea is native to a wide area of central Africa, from the Great African Lake Region, which includes Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, to the Horn of Africa, namely Somalia and Ethiopia. Also, it has been foun in Yemen. Its habitat consists in dry regions, in which these plant thrive in the shade of bigger shrubs.

Edithcolea grandis is a unique and fashinating plant, who earned the common name of “Persian carpet flower” due to its gorgeous, big and colourful flowers. This feature makes this plant one of the most sought after in the Stapeliae tribe.

Edithcolea is a perennial succulent plant with a creeping or falling habit. It is leaveless and richly branched, and its stems don’t exceed 30 centimeters of length and 2-4 centimeters in diameter. The photosynthesis, with the leaves absent, is carried out by the stems. These plants, due to their creeping attitude, tend to form wide maps.

Stems are glabrous, four or five- angular, equipped with acuminate tubercles (similar to spines!), and show a greyish-green colour, sometimes also red with brownish spots. They aren’s so flashy, if compared with the flowers.

What stands out is the gorgeous flower, very large if compared to the plant (8 to 13 centimeters in diameter!), with a star-shaped corolla with five pointed and sometimes curved outwards lobs, (petals, when fused together, are called lobs of the corolla). The external part of the lobs is bright orange, while the central part is adorned with a rich dotted pattern, red-purple on creamy yellow, which becomes more dense towards the inner part, occupied by an inner corona surrounded by rings of smaller and smaller dots forming concentric rows. Long purple hairs are present at the border of the brim of the outer corolla lobes. Now you get the name “Persian carpet flower”!

With the Stapeliae tribe Edithcolea shares the pollinators, which are flesh flies: the persian carpet pattern, together with the unpleasant smell of rotten meat or some kind of dung, is a mechanism to attract them.

Once pollinated, flowers turn into fork-shaped fruits (follicles, in botany) rich in seeds, which are also very decorative. Seeds are oval-shaped and equipped with a tuft of hairs, called “coma” as in all Stapeliae, which has the function to help their spread through wind.

VARIETY AND TYPES

As we already mentioned above, Edithcolea is a monospecific genus and includes only one species: Edithcolea grandis. Check our online shop to find it!

TIPS FOR GROWING

Edithcolea has a reputation for not being easy to cultivate. On the other hand it’s sufficient to follow carefully a few, simple tips to make your plant thrive! Here they are:

  • Put it in a semi-shaded position, though in a bright environment. It should receive light indirectly and be kept away from direct sun rays.
  • This plant doesn’t tolerate cold. Its minimum tolerated temperature is in fact 15ºC and, anyway, never below 4ºC. We advise thus to put it indoors during the Winter in temperate climate regions.
  • Its substrate should be very well-draining as this plant is very sensitive to rotting, especially during the Winter.
  • Watering should be carried out carefully due to the already mentioned sensitivity to rot. During the Winter, it should be completely suspended, as the plant is particularly sensitive in this period, while, during the vegetative season, in Spring and Summer, the plant should be watered regularly (at least once a week), paying attention to wait for the soil to dry up properly before each intervention.
  • This plant is used to poor soils, so fertilization won’t be often necessary.
  • Repotting should be, instead, more frequent, as Edithcolea is a groundcover and tends to form wide mats. Use shallow but wide pots and repot any time you notice that the plant approaches the edges of the pots, at least once a year.

Propagation can be easily carried out through cuttings, as long as they are planted at a temperature higher than 27ºC (a greenhouse in summer can do well). You can also try to sow its numerous small seeds in a sandy substrate.

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