Mestoklema tuberosum var. macrorhizum
Mestoklema tuberosum is native to Cape Provinces where the plant grows in alluvial soils.
Mestoklema tuberosum is a tree-like shrub belonging to the Aizoaceae botanical family. The plant has an erect habit and can reach up to 70 cm in height. The stem is woody, stout, heavy branched, dark brown with a peeling bark. The roots of this plant are very particular: at first the roots grow underground and in age they grow exposed out of the ground creating a beautiful bonsai effect. The roots are tuberos and have a storage function to withstand drought periods. The leaves are small, finger like, fleshy, recurved at tips and green in color. Blooming occurs from the early summer to the late autumn and the flowers are grouped in cymose inflorescences. The flowers are daisy-like, small, ranging from the red to orange to yellow. After the flowers have passed, the old inflorescence branches persist as a light grey zig-zag meshwork among the leaves. The plant is very appreciated by bonsai and succulent lovers.
The plant grows very slowly but it is easy to cultivate. The plant needs a direct sun-light exposure all year round and airy locations. The succulent can tolerate temperatures to 45° C, and short periods of frost, but prolonged cold will damage or kill the plant. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 10 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The soil should be a well-draining and porous soil, so you can use a standard cactus soil or a mix of fertile soil and sand. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. During the vegetative period you can water the plant every 5 days with half a glass of water, checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant must be fed with a high potassium fertilizer in the summer. You can dilute the fertilizer twice a month in the irrigation water. 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; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can use the offsets during the spring. Cut an offset and then let it 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. It is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. 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 and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 15-21 C°. Germination usually occurs within about a week or two.
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.
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