Mestoklema

Family: Aizoiaceae
Habitat: South Africa and Namibia
Cultivation: Coleocephalocereus are not so easy to grow. Put them in a bright spot, preferably under direct light, choose a well-draining substrate and keep the temperature above 8-12ÂșC
Curiosity: Its name derives from Greek and literally means “sheathed head”, referring to the cephalium that develops at the apex as the plant grows up, or a downy spherical “head” from which large nocturnal flowers bloom. Another reference in the name is the term “cereus”, which indicates its typically columnar habit.

KEY FEATURES

Mestoklema is a genus of plants in the family Aizoiaceae. It includes 10 species, native to southern Africa: in particular South Africa and Namibia.

The habitat of Mestoklemas is the succulent Karoo. The Karoo is an ecoregion extended in South Africa and part of Namibia. It is a very peculiar habitat, in terms of climate, geology and vegetation. It’s a semi-arid area, with a medium annual rainfall ranging between 50 and 250 millimeters, pupulated by succulent plants such as Aloes, Mesembryanthemums an Crassulas. In this harsh environment, Mestoklemas can be found in alluvional soils or either in low open herbland on loamy or stony soil, where they form dense scrubs and they are able to survive thanks to their potato-shaped roots, which serve as a storage for nutrients and water.

Their roots are often erroneously referred in cultivation as 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 Mestoklema, the organs involved in the storage function are actually roots and not stems: that’s why referring to them as “caudex” is actually wrong.

The roots are the main feature which make Mestoklemas so appreciated in cultivation. While, in their natural environment, the fat root system grows buried in the ground, in cultivation conditions the plant is usually lifted above the soil level and the tuberous roots become visible, creating a beutiful bonsai effect. The shape of the roots is sub-globose and twisted and, in some species, they show a reddish-brown, thick peeling bark .

The plants habit consists in a tuft of twiggy, intricately branched, wiry, green stems, sprouting from the central, woody, massive rootstock. Older stems then turn brownish-orange.

Its small leaves are lanceolate, linear, around 1.5 millimeters wide and 20 millimeters long. The exact dimensions depend actually on the species. In some species, they are recurved on tips and rounded-triangular in cross-section.

Flowers are grouped in cymose inflorescences. They are usually daisy-like, very small (with a maximum diameter of 2 millimeters). Their colour can rang from whitish to yellow or orange, depending on the species.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Here below are the 10 accepted species in the genus Mestoklema.

  • M. albanicum
  • M. albanicum
  • M. arboriforme
  • M. copiosum
  • M. copiosum
  • M. elatum
  • M. elatum
  • M. illepidum
  • M. tuberosum

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TIPS FOR GROWING

Here below are our tips for the cultivation of your Mestoklema:

  • It requires an exposure to full sun in rather airy locations.
  • It prefers rather mild temperatures, however it still survives even at temperatures close to freezing if the soil is dry.
  • Water moderately and only when the soil is completely dry. It is enough to water it once a week in spring and summer, reduce it to once every two months in autumn and to suspend it completely in winter.
  • The best soil is a well-draining one, even better if further enriched with inert materials such as pumice, sand or lapilli.
  • They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.

The propagation is usually carried out both by seeds and cuttings.

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