Tylecodon

Family: Crassulaceae
Habitat: Southern Africa
Cultivation: We recommend growing Tylecodon in pots as they cannot tolerate low temperatures and must be sheltered in winter. The position must be very bright and you can also expose them to direct sunlight. It is important to use a draining substrate and watering must be done only when the soil is dry.
Curiosity: The name of the genus Tylecodon is an anagram of “Cotyledon”, another genus of succulent plants from South Africa. Tylecodon were considered part of the genus Cotyledon up until 1978, when they were classified as a separate genus.

KEY FEATURES

The genus Tylecodon includes 45 succulent plants endemic of South Africa and Namibia, (mainly South Africa). It is divided into two groups: dwarf to small shrubby species, and medium to large species. They are widespread in rocky, dry habitats and savannas in the Karoo region. The Karoo is a dry region between South Africa and Namibia, popular for its remarkable succulents plant biodiversity.

Only two species of Tylecodon, in particular T. aridimontanus and T. aurusbergensis, are listed in the IUCN Red List. However, there’s some concern about the conservation of this genus as farmers tend to treat these plants as weeds due to their toxicity.

The reason why Tylecodons were placed in a genus separated from the broader Cotyledon is mainly their leaves arrangement. In Cotyledon, in fact, leaves are arranged in opposite, decussate pairs (decussate is a botanical term which means that the pairs of leaves follow each other at right angles). In Tylecodon, instead, leaves show a spiral arrangement and, also, deciduous in Summer.

They are shrubby plants, characterised by their succulent, hollow leaves, although they can have very different appearances (rounded or very elongated leaves, for example).

The height of the plants and their overall appearance in fact vary greatly depending on the species. They range from dwarf species such as T. reticulatus, just over ten centimetres in height, to giants of over three metres such as T. paniculatus.

Tylecodon are often equipped with a caudex. The caudex is an evolutionary device typical of plants native to semi-dry areas, with an alternance of dry and humid periods. It is a usually woody enlargement of the trunk or stem, which has the function to store water and nutrients. Many shrubby species, moreover, such as the already mentioned T. paniculatus, show a woody trunk with cylindrical, more or less lumpy branches, branching in a dichotomous manner, and end in groups like tufts of succulent leaves at the top of these stems

Flowers are generally tiny and bell-shaped, with five petals and vary in colour and size according to the species. They are pollinated by bees and birds in their natural habitat.

Tylecodon are poisonous plants, so that, in their natural environment, they cause many problems either to livestock and to people collecting and handling them without paying sufficient attention. They in fact show many toxic effects to the nervous system and the muscles, in addiction to cause many different cardiac symptoms. Also, the meat of poisoned animals is dangerous when ate raw. Cooked meat, instead, seem to be harmless, but the reason of this fact are unknown. In livestock, it causes several types of muscle contractions.

VARIETY AND TYPES

As already written, the genus Tylecodon was born in 1978, when it was detached from the Cotyledon. Here below are the currently recognised species. Check our online shop to find them!

  • T. albiflorus
  • T. aridimontanus
  • T. atropurpureus
  • T. aurusbergensis
  • T. bayeri
  • T. buchholzianus
  • T. cacaliodes
  • T. decipiens
  • T. ellaphieae
  • T. faucium
  • T. fragilis
  • T. grandiflorus
  • T. hallii
  • T. hirtifolius
  • T. kritzingeri
  • T. leucothrix
  • T. occultans
  • T. paniculatus
  • T. pearsonii
  • T. pusillus
  • T. pygmaeus
  • T. racemosus
  • T. reticulatus
  • T. rubrovenosus
  • T. schaeferianus
  • T. similis
  • T. singularis
  • T. stenocaulis
  • T. striatus
  • T. suffultus
  • T. sulphurous
  • T. tenuis
  • T. tomosus
  • T. tuberosus
  • T. ventricosus
  • T. viridiflorus
  • T. wallichii

TIPS FOR GROWING

As this is a very heterogeneous genus, it is difficult to give universal tips. In general, however, it’s good to remember that Crassulaceae are very tough succulents and, so are not so demanding.
Here, then, are our cultivation tips:

  • Put your Tylecodon preferably in full sun. These plants like very bright locations both in summer and winter.
  • Keep the plant above 4-6°C.
  • Water abundantly every 3-4 days in spring and summer, but be careful to let the soil dry out before each watering again to avoid the risk of root rot. Decrease the irrigation frequency in autumn and winter, almost suspending it in Winter.
  • Use a mixture of peat and very coarse sand in equal parts. Ready-made succulent soils may also be suitable.
  • Fertilise once a year, at the beginning of the growing season.
  • Repotting necessities change a lot depending to the species.

Despite the remarkable diversity between different species of this genus, good results for succulents propagation are usually obtained by sowing, leaf cuttings (for smaller plants) or branch cuttings.

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