Family: Icacinaceae
Habitat: Africa: Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Ethiopia.
Cultivation: Not so difficult.
Curiosity: P.malvifolia, is deemed to possue the largest above ground caudex in the plant kingdom: it reaches 1,5 meters in diameter!


Pyrenacantha is a genus of plants belonging to the family of Icacinaceae, which includes 20 species of caudiciform plants,all native to the tropical area of Africa in particular Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Ethiopia.

Pyrenacanthas grow on iron stained soils with fine grained quartz, a 400 to 1500 meters above sea level. Its native climate is semi-arid and the environment is usually a succulent shrubland, with the majority of plants being succulent or thorny.

Pyrenacanthas are particularly appreciated among succulent enthusiasts for their remarkable caudex, which is often rather big. A Caudex, in botany, is an evolutionary device typical of plants native to semi-arid areas: it is an enlarged portion of the stem, in which the plant stores nutrients and water to survive the dry season. The most popular species of Pyrenacantha on the succulents market is undoubtely P. malvifolia, because it is considered by many the largest above ground caudex in the plant kingdom; reaching 1,5 meters in diameter!

Their caudex is usually spherical or bottle-shaped, sometimes with an irregular shape, almost completely above-ground.

From the top of the caudex, a tuft of long vine stems sprout. They can be up to 15 meters long and can be partially deciduous or perennial, equipped with few leaves. The young stems are green and pubescent, but turn woody, more thick and develop a papery bark when they grow old.

Leaves are usually pubescent, with a dense hair, and can take on different shapes depending on the species: ranging from heart-shaped ones, to linear, more elongated others and reniform ones. They are usually green and not fleshy.

Flowers are inconspicuous: the most remarkable feature in this genus is in fact undoubtely the caudex. They are borne by elongated (4-7 centimeters) stems growing at the axiles of the leaves, and the inflorescences are similar to elongated, soft spikes. The flowers are very small (1 millimeter in diameter) and are greenish-yellow. Pyrenacanthas are monoecious plants: this means that they produced female and male flowers on the same plant, unlike the majority of plants, which form hermaphrodite flowers. However, in the case of Pyrenacantha, male flowers are often produced along with bisexual flowers. The former lie on the upper part of the inflorescences, while the latter are developed at the base of the floreal stem

Fruits are fleshy, often yellow, very small, and contain little, elliptical brown seeds.


Here below are a few species of Pyrenacantha:

  • P. acuminata
  • P. ambrensis
  • P. andapensis
  • P. canaliculata
  • P. capitata
  • P. chlorantha
  • P. cordicula
  • P. dinklagei
  • P. gabonica
  • P. globosa
  • P. grandiflora
  • P. grandifolia
  • P. humblotii
  • P. kaurabassana
  • P. kirkii
  • P. klaineana
  • P. laetevirens
  • P. lebrunii
  • P. longirostrata
  • P. malvifolia
  • P. mangenotiana
  • P. menyharthii
  • P. perrieri
  • P. puberula
  • P. rakotozafyi
  • P. repanda
  • P. ruspolii
  • P. scandens
  • P. staudtii
  • P. sylvestris
  • P. taylorii
  • P. tropophila
  • P. ugandensis
  • P. undulata
  • P. vitifolia
  • P. vogeliana
  • P. volubilis

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Pyrenacantha are not so difficult to grow, however they are extremely slow-growing. Actually, if you manage to wait several years, their caudex will become bigger and bigger and will definitely reward you!
Here are our advices for the cultivation of these plants:

  • Put your Pyrenacantha in a bright spot, but keep its caudex in partial shade.
  • Pyrenacanthas need warm temperatures: better to keep them at temperatures above 10ºC. On the other hand, they tolerate really hot temperatures: until 45ºC! In Winter, thus, we suggest to keep it indoors.
  • Pyrenacanthas are vines and can reach a considerable height, so choose carefully their position and prepare a supporting structure for the vine stems.
  • Choose a well-draining soil, rich in nutrients for your Pyrenacantha-
  • Water regularly in Summer, at least once a week, waiting for the soil to dry completely before each irrigation. In Winter, the risk of rot should be avoided watering only enough to keep the caudex from shrivelling completely.
  • Fertilization should be done regularly during the growing season. Choose a liquid fertilizer for succulents.

The advised propagation method is undoubtely sowing. Limited results are obtained from cuttings.

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