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CeropegiaCeropegia  Linnaeus 1753 (Lantern flowers)

This genus contains a diverse group of 160 named species distributed over a wide range including the Canary Islands, Africa, Madagascar, Arabia, India, Ceylon, China, Indonesia, Phillipines, New Guinea and Australia (Queensland). Ceropegia Some of these perrenial plants have succulent stems, which may be dwarf or vine-like and possess fibrous roots. Others have tubers and relatively thin stems, along which new tubers may form at stem nodes. Species with fleshy thickened roots are the most difficult to grow as they are sensitive to moisture. Very often the plant in dies in its pot, but its exploring stems have rooted in the space under another pot where it will grow quite happily. The leaves are opposite, but may be vestigial on species with succulent stems.
 

Ceropegia arabica
C. arabica
Photo: Sage Reynolds

Flowers occur either singly or in umbel-like clusters and have a tubular corolla 2 or more times as long as its diameter and longer than the 5 lobes. The base of the tube is usually inflated and the tube may have downwardly orientated hairs on the inside and hairs on the outside and at the edges of the lobes. Colours include reds, purples, yellows, greens and mixtures of these. The tips of the lobes are fused together to form a cage-like flower structure in many species, but are open in others. Flies entering the corolla may become trapped by the internal hairs until the flower wilts.
 
The genus Riocreuxia contains non-succulent species with woody stems and roots and has sometimes been united with Ceropegia.
 


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Ceropegia ampliata

Ceropegia ampliata  J.F. Drège 1830 (Bushman's Pipe)
Fleshy tuberous roots produce a green twining stem with only tiny vestigial lanceolate leaves that are short-lived. Fibrous aerial roots may form at stem nodes, especially where they touch the soil. The green and white tubular flowers smell of rotting carrion to attract flies and are followed by purple seed horns full of seeds packed with silken parachutes. Although seed horns are produced in pairs, only one usually develops fully.
 
Native to the Transvaal, KwaZulu-Natal, and Cape Province of South Africa and Madagascar.
Photo: Sage Reynolds, Staten Island N.Y.

Ceropegia arabica
C. arabica
Photo: Sage Reynolds

Ceropegia arabica  H. Huber 1957
A variable Ceropegia with thick twining stems. The white and green or white and puple mottled flower has its lobe tips fused into a distinctive sometimes twisted spire. The lobes have marginal hairs that trap inquisitive flies.
 
Native to Arabia.
This variable species has four recognised sub-species:
Ceropegia arabica var. arabica
Ceropegia arabica var. powysii
Ceropegia arabica var. abbreviata
Ceropegia arabica var. superba

Ceropegia aristolochioides

Ceropegia aristolochioides  Decaisne 1838
Name: resembles flowers of the genus Aristolochia 
Fleshy tuberous roots support a thick green stem that scrambles over the ground and other vegetation. The cordate leaves have a drip tip. The flowers in shades of red mottled with yellow or cream, have fused lobe tips to make a particularly striking 'lantern'. The lobe tips have a few hairs.
 
Native to a large range of tropical Africa including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire. This species is considered edible and both root and leaves can be cooked for food. An infusion made from the stem and leaves is used to relieve itchy skin.
Photo: Jan Rimmek, Osnabrueck, Germany

Ceropegia ballyana

Ceropegia ballyana  Bullock 1951
Named for: Peter René Oscar Bally who made the first description as C. helicoides. 
This species has fibrous roots and twining green stems with obovate glossy green leaves. The inflorescence is white to yellow, speckled with maroon spots with the upper lobes of the 'lantern' slightly pubescent and fused at their tips.
 
Native to Kenya. In 1983 Kenya produced a postage stamp featuring flowers of Ceropegia ballyana.
Photo: Jan Rimmek, Osnabrueck, Germany

Ceropegia denticulata
Photo: Renée Gaillard 
Ceropegia denticulata
Photo:Jan Rimmek 

Ceropegia denticulata  K.M Schumann 1895
Thickened fleshy roots produce thick green twining stems with opposite pairs of ovate leaves whose margins bear tiny teeth. The purple to cream mottled with maroon flowers may have hairs over their surface with long filaments at the top of the "lantern". The flowers produce a fruity perfume.

 
Native to tropical Africa including Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Ceropegia distincta ssp. haygarthii

Ceropegia distincta  N.E. Brown 1895 ssp. haygarthii (Schlechter) Huber 1957
A Ceropegia with fibrous roots, twining succulent stems and an unusual flower. The cream and purpled speckled flower has its five lobes fused to make a pentagonal structure, further ornamented with a narrow tube and a 5-winged 'lantern' with white hairs.
 
Native to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Photo: Jan Rimmek

Ceropegia fusca
Ceropegia fusca

Ceropegia fusca  Bolle 1861
Name: Latin fusca = very dark brown 
This shrubby species consists of woody stems up to 4ft tall, branching near their base and bearing opposite pairs of lancolate deciduous leaves. Clusters of tubular, reddish-brown flowers are produced in the leaf axils. Their five narrow lobes join at the tip. Flowers are followed by pairs of long seed horns.
 
Native to the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria, and La Palma and Tenerife, favouring lava outcrops in full sun. Suitable for cultivation as an ornamental shrub in dry landscaping for tropical climates but requires heat and as much sun as possible to do well.
 
Upper left: Ceropegia fusca growing at Las Galletas, S. of Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Photo: Oscar L. Saavedra.
 
Lower left: Ceropegia fusca flower.
Photo: Jan Rimmek, Osnabrueck, Germany

Ceropegia sandersonii
Photo: Sage Reynolds
Ceropegia sandersonii
Photo: Jan Rimmek

Ceropegia sandersonii  Decaisne ex Hooker f. 1869 (Umbrella Flower, Sambreelblom)
Named for: John Sanderson (1820-1881) Scottish botanist and collector in South Africa. 
A distinctive Ceropegia whose thick twining stems bear opposite pairs of cordate succulent leaves and large pale yellow funnel-shaped flowers mottled with green, whose five lobes are fused into a corrugated dome ver the top of the funnel and are fringed with white hairs. This structure forms a trap for pollinating flies.
 
Native to South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. This species has a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Ceropegia stapeliformis

Ceropegia stapeliformis  Haworth 1827 (Serpent / Snake Creeper, Slangkambro)
Name: stapeliiformis = resembles genus Stapelia 
This Ceropegia has fibrous roots supporting a glaucous green trailing succulent stem with tiny vestigial leaves. The funnel-shaped flowers are greenish-white spotted with maroon and with white hairs on the margins of the five reflexed lobes which open freely. Flowers are followed by seed horns.
 
Native to South Africa and Swaziland, scrambling through scrub. It is often rooted in decomposing leaves under shrubs.
Photo: Sage Reynolds, Staten Island N.Y.

Ceropegia woodii
Photo: Jan Rimmek
Ceropegia woodii
Photo: R.J.Hodgkiss

Ceropegia woodii  Schlechter 1894 (Sweetheart Vine, Rosary Vine)
Syn. Ceropegia linearis ssp. woodii (Schlechter) H.Huber 1957
A Ceropegia with fibrous roots and forming small tubers at the stem nodes. The thin creeping succulent stems bear opposite pairs of dark-green cordate leaves, often veined or marbled in a paler colour. The lobes of the small pink to purple flowers are fused into a darker lantern at their apex with varying amounts of hairs. Their perfume is slightly disagreeable but mainly noticable to flies that become trapped in the lantern flowers.
 
Native to Natal. Commonly grown in hanging baskets and has a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit. I find it grows better in a plant-saucer of gravel than when properly potted up in soil. This is definitely a Ceropegia that likes to explore the greenhouse staging and form tubers and roots under other pots.

go to top  Cultivation of Ceropegias

A gritty compost is suitable, and clay pots help with drainage, especially for the species with white thickened roots which are the most susceptible to rotting and for species forming large tubers. Ceropegias appreciate water and a little fertiliser during warm weather, although some care with watering is required for the more difficult species. The vine-like species can suffer from prolonged drought.
 
Typically, many of these species grow and climb naturally among bushes which provide shade and humidity to the base, while the vegetative growth is in the light. Where tubers occur, they are best planted on the surface of the compost, and the vegetative growth allowed to twine around supports or to trail down from a hanging pot. The latter mode of growth has the advantage of not using valuable bench space. Small tubers formed at joints in the thin stems of some species can be used for propagation. If the tuber rots or dries out, don't panic. As long as some of the top growth is still in reasonable condition, it may be possible to save the plant by re-rooting stems in damp gravel.
 
In the more succulent species, stems layered on the compost will produce roots from their lower surface, and climbing reproductive flowering shoots which can be allowed to hang down or twine around supports. Vine-like species readily root from cuttings inserted vertically in the soil to the bottom of a pair of leaves. A minimum over-wintering temperature of 10°C is adequate providing the plants are kept dry.