Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca
F. aurantiaca is native to Cape Provinces and Namibia. In the wild, the plant grows underground and only the tips of the leaves emerge from the ground to catch the light.
F. aurantiaca is an amazing dwarf succulent belonging to the Aizoaceae botanical family. The plant is stemless or with a very short one, the roots are shallow and thick. The leaves are fleshy, club-shaped with a convex apex and are smooth and covered with a waxy layer. The leaves are pale green and the tip is darker because without chlorophyll. The leaves store oxalic acid in crystalline form, this allows the light to be transported to the underground parts of the plant dedicated to photosynthesis. Blooming occurs from autumn to early spring and the flower blooms showing beautiful golden-yellow tones. The flowers have five sepals and many petals and are carried by long stalks.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 5°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. 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 cacti; 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.
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 comes from the Latin “fenestra”, that is, “window”: on the top of each leaf, in fact, there is a small, convex and transparent, chlorophyll-free part that allows the passage of light within the plant.
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