Ceropegia

Ceropegia

[seer-uh-pee-jee-uh, -juh]

Ceropegias are an interesting group of plants which have attracted much attention from botanists, horticulturalists, gardeners, succulent enthusiasts. Carl Linnaeus, who first described this genus in volume 1 of his Species plantarum, which appeared in 1753, thought that the flowers looked like a fountain of wax. From this the scientific name was derived: ‘keros’ meaning wax and ‘pege’ meaning fountain (Pooley, 1998). They have many common names including lantern flower, parasol flower, parachute flower, bushman’s pipe, string of hearts, snake creeper, wine-glass vine, rosary vine, necklace vine and condom flower.

Many Ceropegia species have been taken as ornamental houseplants, and some of these are commercially available. They can be propagated by seed and cuttings.

Appearance

The stems are vining or trailing in most species, though a few species from the Canary Islands have erect growth habits. Among some species, such as Ceropegia woodii, the nodes swell, and the roots similarly expand to form tubers beneath the soil surface. The leaves are simple and opposite, although they can be rudimentary or absent. Especially in certain succulent species, the leaves may also be thick and fleshy.

The flowers have a tubular corolla with five petals most often fused at the tips, forming an umbrella-like canopy, a cage, or appendage-like antennae (Dyer, 1983). An interesting feature of Ceropegias is that their flower tubes are lined with small hairs that point downward to form a trap for small flies. When flies are attracted into the flower by the odour they are prevented from escaping until the hairs wither, the pollinia of the Ceropegia flower being attached to the flies’ bodies when they escape.

Classification

The genus Ceropegia belongs to the Asclepiadoideae (Milkweed) sub-family within the family Apocynaceae. Species of this genus bear similarities to the carrion flowers or Stapelias. There are between 160 and 200 species worldwide and they are found widely from the Canary Islands, Africa, Madagascar, Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea and Queensland.

A generic complex with many interesting taxonomic problems at both generic and specific level are formed by three genera: Ceropegia, Brachystelma and Riocreuxia.

Selected species

  • Ceropegia gemmifera - Togo tangle
  • Ceropegia haygarthii (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia hians (Canary Islands)
  • Ceropegia juncea
  • Ceropegia krainzii (Canary Islands)
  • Ceropegia leroyi (Madagascar)
  • Ceropegia linearis (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia lugardae (eastern Africa)
  • Ceropegia multiflora (southern Africa)
  • Ceropegia nilotica (eastern Africa)
  • Ceropegia pachystelma (southern Africa)
  • Ceropegia racemosa (tropical Africa)
  • Ceropegia radicans (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia rendallii (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia robynsiana (Congo)
  • Ceropegia rupicola (Arabia)
  • Ceropegia sandersonii (southern Africa)
  • Ceropegia senegalensis (Senegal)
  • Ceropegia seticorona (eastern Africa)
  • Ceropegia somaliensis (eastern Africa)
  • Ceropegia stapeliiformis (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia stentii (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia succulenta
  • Ceropegia superba (Arabia)
  • Ceropegia turricula (South Africa)
  • Ceropegia variegata (Arabia)
  • Ceropegia verrucosa
  • Ceropegia viridis (Madagascar)
  • Ceropegia woodii - string of hearts
  • Ceropegia zeyheri (South Africa)
  • Gallery

    References

    Dyer, R.A. 1983. Ceropegia, Brachystelma and Riocreuxia in Southern Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

    Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

    External sources

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