Habitat: Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Angola, in arid environments
Cultivation: Avoid excess of water, full exposure to sunlight.
Curiosity: The name Sarcocaulon comes from the Greek words “sarkos”,which means “flashy” and caulon, that is “stem”.
Sarcocaulon is a genus of succulent plants belonging to the Geraniaceae family. Its common name is “Bushman candle” (Bushmen are an indigenous tribe of southern Africa). The bark of these plants is in fact inflammable and was used by local people to light the fire.
The Sarcocaulon are very appreciated as bonsai for their very particular shape. These plants in fact branch out almost satin-earth! This characteristic makes them take the form of small trees already in their natural state.
The Sarcocaulon are small thorny shrubs with short, thick stems and branches. The branches are prostrate, erect or semi-erect and covered with a translucent and waxy bark. They also have a fleshy consistency: this is probably the reason for the name of the genus, Sarcocaulon: “Sarkos”, in Greek, means fleshy, and “caulon” means “stem”.
Another peculiarity of these plants is the leaf dimorphism. The leaf dimorphism is the characteristic of some plants to produce two different types of leaves with completely different shapes. In the case of Sarcocaulon the difference between the two types of leaves lies in the length of the petiole: one shape has a long petiole, the other one is shorter. The leaves with the long petiole are single, while the others grow single or in groups of maximum 7 leaves at the axilla of the long thorns.
The leaf laminaes instead have different shapes depending on the species: elliptical or oval, more or less folded or with wavy margins.
The flowers are solitary and gorgeous, carried on petioles overlooking the entire plant. They look like our Cistus flowers, (Cystus spp.), with their variegated colors, from white to yellow to pink, and the extreme delicacy of their petals.
These plants are native and distributed in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and also in Angola (only one species is present in Angola). Their growing environment is arid and desert and Sarcocaulon grow, in particular, on rocky or gravelly slopes, sands, quartzitic soils.
TIPS FOR GROWING
Sarcocaulons are not very difficult to grow. They love direct sunlight and should be watered about once every 10 days during their vegetative development phase. As soon as the leaves begin to show signs of withering and falling, watering should be thinned out until completely suspended. Excess water is the most frequent reason for failure in growing Sarcocaulon.
- Choose a well draining substrate with a strong component of gravel and sand: the best results are obtained by mixing gravel, sand and ordinary soil in three equal parts.
- They love direct sunlight and should be watered about once every 10 days during their vegetative development phase.
- As soon as the leaves begin to show signs of withering and falling, watering should be thinned out until completely suspended. Excess water is the most frequent reason for failure in growing Sarcocaulons.
The most commonly used propagation method for Sarcocaulon is sowing. In fact, Sarcocaulons given by seed give the best results, because the slower growth gives them the opportunity to adapt to the climate where they grow and to develop a large root system.