Habitat: Endemic of Madagascar
Cultivation: Filtered light, warm temperature, regular watering in Spring and Summer, keep dry in Winter.
Curiosity: Some authors suggest that these kinds of fruits have evolved specifically for being dispersed by Aepyornis, giant birds (now extinted), that once inhabited Madagascar, belonging to the group of the elephant birds.
Uncarina is a small genus in the family Pedaliaceae. It includes about 17 species of small trees or shrubs with small deciduous leaves and big beautiful flowers native to Madagascar. The trunk of these trees is often equipped with a swollen, leafless base that has the function to store water and nutrients. It can be only found in some arid regions in Madagascar: it’s called an endemism. Plants endemic of a geografic areas are species that grow only in that very area all over the world. The genus Uncarina includes in fact many threatened species: the main danger is the uncontrolled collecting. Species of this genus are in fact traditionally used in traditional medicine and to produce naturally-based cosmetics. Another threat is also the loss of its habitat due to a gradual desertification.
Uncarina plants are shrubs or little trees with deciduous, thick, alternate, hairy leaves, growing on wavy, soft branches. “Alternate” is a botanical term that describe a type of arrangement of leaves, which grows alternatively on the opposite sides of a branch. Leaves sprout during the rainy season, along with the beautiful flowers, which are one of the reasons why Uncarinas are so sought after by succulent lovers. Flowers are big and continue to bloom for all Summer long. Their colour might be different according to the species. They might be yellow or violet-pinkish. Most of the Uncarinas have actually yellow flowers, while U. abbreviata is the only species to show pink flowers. They are funnel-shaped, with a conic tube and 5, rounded lobes. The stamens and stigma (which are, respectively, the male and the female parts of any flowers), are almost completely hidden inside the corolla tube. After withering, they leave room to the fruits: indehiscent capsules with a kind of a hooked spine that has the function to spread the seeds. Through the hooks, in fact, fruits remain caught in the fur of wild animals, which spread them at variable distances. Some authors suggest that these kinds of fruits have evolved specifically for being dispersed by Aepyornis, giant birds (now extinted), that once inhabited Madagascar, belonging to the group of the elephant birds.
VARIETY AND TYPES
Uncarina is not a big genus. Here below are all the accepted species:
- Uncarina abbreviata
- Uncarina ankaranensis
- Uncarina decaryi
- Uncarina didieri
- Uncarina grandidieri
- Uncarina ihlenfeldtiana
- Uncarina leandrii
- Uncarina leptocarpa
- Uncarina peltata
- Uncarina perrieri
- Uncarina platycarpa
- Uncarina roeoesliana
- Uncarina sakalava
- Uncarina stellulifera
- Uncarina turicana
TIPS FOR GROWING
Uncarinas are usually not so difficult to grow. Some species are also used as bonsais. Here below are our cultivation tips:
- Put them in a bright spot, exposed to filtered light, or in partial shade.
- Though some authors suggest that Uncarinas might tolerate freezing temperatures for short periods if kept completely dry, it is well known that they do not like cold weather (temperatures should never fall below 2ºC). To stay safe, we advise to keep them indoors, to have temperatures of at least 10ºC. If plant grown outdoors get freezed, they might be able to sprout during the following vegetative season from their swollen rootstock (depending on the species).
- Water abundantly in Spring and Summer, though always waiting for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigation. When it has no leaves, avoid watering at all and, in general, keep dry in Autumn and Winter. It is very sensitive to root rot.
- Choose a very well-drained substrate, but rich in nutrients. You could add, for example, some pumice or perlite to a standard substrate.
- Fertilize once a year, especially in young plants (as in adult individuals it is not necessary), with a product specific for succulents, diluting it to half the doses recommended on the label.
- Uncarinas can grow quite fast if they stay healthy. Repotting might be necessary once a year, during the vegetative season, or anytime the plant outgrows its pot in width.
The propagation of Uncarinas might be carried out either through seeds and cuttings, depending on the species.