Oscularia

Family: Aizoaceae
Habitat: South Africa
Cultivation: Oscularia is not difficult to grow: a well-draining soil, unfrequent irrigation in Winter and regular in summer and a semi-shaded spot will do well, along with mild temperatures.
Curiosity: Its name derives from Latin and means “mouth”, indicating the appearance of its small fleshy leaves, similar to tiny mouths, sometimes slightly toothed.

KEY FEATURES

Oscularia is a genus of succulents plant in the family Aizoaceae, including around 22 accepted species, among which O. deltoide is the most popular in ornamental gardening.

Oscularia is native to South Africa, where it grows in a Winter-rainfall area, in crevices on sandstone rocks, in shaded positions for most of the day. Its natural habitat is a typical shrubland bioma of South Africa called “fymbo”, extended in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. The Fymbos stand out for the remarkable biodiversity it hosts: it includes the 80% of the species of the Cape floral kingdom!

Oscularias are succulent shrubs, much branched and up to 50-60 centimeters of height depending on the species. The stems are reddish or tinged in purple and rather crowded, decumbent, trailing or erect according to the species. In general, they tend to form rounded shrubs which spread indefinetely.

Leaves are succulent have a particular shape: when paired, they look like mouths! The name Oscularia, in fact, comes from Latin and means “Mouth”. The single leave looks like a slightly triangular-shaped tongue, broadest above the middle, with a final mucrone (“mucrone” is a botanical term to describe acuminate points of certain kinds of leaves). They are arranged in opposite pairs: that’s why, when paired, they look like mouths.

Flowers are daisy-like, not so big (1-2 centimeters in diameter) but abundant on the plant, with numerous, very narrow petals, usually pink (but it depend on the species: in O. deltoide they are pink). They are scented and they attract a lot of pollinators in their natural habitat. Their blooming season goes from Late Spring to Summer and the flower open during the afternoon. Warmer climates promote a longer blooming period.

VARIETY AND TYPES

Here below are the accepted species of Oscularia:

  • O. alba
  • O. caulescens
  • O. cedarbergensis
  • O. compressa
  • O. comptonii
  • O. copiosa
  • O. cremnophila
  • O. deltata
  • O. excedens
  • O. guthrieae
  • O. lunata
  • O. major
  • O. ornata
  • O. paardebergensis
  • O. pedunculata
  • O. piquetbergensis
  • O. prasina
  • O. primiverna
  • O. steenbergensis
  • O. superans
  • O. thermarum
  • O. vernicolor
  • O. vredenburgensis

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TIPS FOR GROWING

Oscularia is not so difficult to cultivate, and it’s commonly known as the “pink ice plant”,due to its remarkable resistance to any environmental conditions. When the temperatures are rather mild, it will delight you with large scented expanses of pink-orange flowers. It is certainly one of the most suitable creeping plants to decorate your gardens or your balconies, thanks to its persistent ice-like leaves!

  • Avoid direct sun rays, which may burn the leaves; choose a sheltered and bright place instead. Excellent morning sunlight, until 12.00 / 13.00.
    It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 5 °C, for this reason it is recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
  • Water moderately, only when the soil is completely dry. It is enough to water the plant once a week in spring and summer, once a month in autumn and to suspend watering completely in winter.
  • The best soil is a well-draining one, even better if further enriched with inert materials such as pumice or lapilli.
  • They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.

Oscularia is frequently propagated through cuttings: more rarely by seeds.

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