Habitat: USA, Mexico and Central America, up to Guatemala and Belize.
Cultivation: Easy. Plenty of light for the vines and shade for the caudex, scarce watering, mild temperatures and a well-draining substrate will do well.
Curiosity: Its name was chosen in honor of Michelangelo Consul, an important Italian botanist.
Ibervillea is a botanical genus belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae. Though this is the family of the pumpkins, Ibervilleas really don’t have much in common with pumpkins at all. The genus includes 9 species, native to USA, Mexico and Central America, up to Guatemala and Belize.
They usually grow on sandy soils, mostly in coastal oak woods, but also on a variety of soil types in rocky hills and fences, at edges of thickets and in open woods. The seeds are eaten by scaled quail, and the leaves are occasionally eaten by white-tailed deer.
They are caudiciform vines. “Caudiciform” means “equipped with a caudex”. A caudex is an evolutionary device typical of plants native to semi-arid areas: it is an enlarged, partially or totally subterranean stem which serve as a storage for water and nutrients. In Ibervilleas, the caudex can reach 60-70 centimeters in diameter, depending on the species. In some species, injured caudexs release the odour of horseradish.
The stems, instead, can become up to 3 meters tall! They are green, wiry, glabrous, herbaceous and dark green. Ibervilleas are deciduous, thus these stems wither in Winter to resprout during the following vegetative season. The vining, long stem are one of the reason why, though it’s very appreciated for the decorative potential of its caudex and as a vine, Ibervilleas are considered challenging plants to grow.
Leaves are alternate (this means that they are arranged single at each node and borne along the stem alternately in an ascending spiral). They are green, divided in 3 to 5 lobes, with the lobes lobed in turn or either laciniate.
Flowers are small and yellow, with a bell shaped corolla made of a few fused petals called lobes. They are unisexual, and they are, on the same plant, either male and female flowers. Male flowers can be grouped in clusters or either be solitary, while female flowers are always solitary, grow at the axiles of the leaves. They bloom from Spring to late Summer.
The fruit is a spherical berry, light green, First light green streaked with darker green, then red, with seeds enclosed in a red aril. An aril is an extra seed covering, typically coloured and hairy or fleshy, e.g. the red fleshy cup around a yew seed. Fruits equipped with arils are peculiar, as their seed is not completely enclosed in the fruit, but only partially. In some species, druits look like little melons, orange or red when ripe and green when unripe.
Its root is used among the ethnic groups of its native areas for many purposes: for example, it is considered a powerful anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-diabetic, anti-rheumatic medication, as well as a natural remedy for various types of dermatitis. It is a true marvel of the alternative medicine!
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are some species of Ibervillea.
- I. hypoleuca
- I. lindheimeri
- I. maxima
- I. millspaughii
- I. sonorae
- I. tenuisecta
Check our online shop to find them!
TIPS FOR GROWING
Here below are our cultivation tips:
- The caudex of Ibervilleas should be kept in the shade, while the vines in full or partial sunlight.
- If kept dry, Ibervilleas can survive temperatures below 0ºC.
- The substrate should be rich in nutrients and very well-drained, stony if possible.
- Water abundantly but unfrequently in Summer, always waiting for the substrate to dry up before each irrigation. In Winter, instead, when the plants drops its leaves, the irrigation should be suspended.
- The plants are very slow growing, so don’t expect great growth spurts from year to year. Repotting is thus necessary once a year or once every two years, depending on the species.
- Fertilization should be carried out once a year during the growth season, with a product specific for succulent plants.
Propagation is usually carried out through seeds, that should be sown in the Spring and maintained in a well-draining soil at a temperature of 20ºC.