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Didiereaceae

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Didiereaceae  Drake del Castillo 1903

The Didiereaceae is a small family of 4 genera and around 11 species of unusual spiny-stemmed succulents from Madagascar including the genera Alluaudia, Alluaudiopsis, Decarya and Didierea. Their extreme spinyness mimicks the Cactaceae, and sometimes these succulent shrubs are referred to as "Cacti of the Old World". However, their thin leaves during periods of active growth make them easy to distinguish. However, the families are sufficiently closely related that cross-grafting is possible.
 
Flowers are small and unisexual with female and male flowers on separate plants. As members of the Order Caryophyllales, Didiereaceae produce betalain pigments, noticable in the pink stigmas and stamens of the flowers.


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Alluaudia   Drake del Castillo 1903
Named for: F. Alluaud 1778 - 1866 French scientist & politician

Six species of very spiny, columnar, cactus-like succulent shrubs and trees from Madagascar where they grow in spiny forests. The stems produce pairs of deciduous leaves during active growth but the leafless stems are also photosynthetic.

Alluaudia ascendens

Alluaudia ascendens  Drake del Castillo 1903
is a columnar succulent tree up to 45 ft tall. The stem is densely furnished with sharp thorns, in between which pairs of small, green heart-shaped leaves are produced during the growing season. Clusters of yellow-green flowers on long petioles are produced at the ends of the branches.
 
Native to dry spiny forests Madagascar.

Alluaudia montagnacii

Alluaudia montagnacii   Rauh 1961
is a columnar tree up to 40 ft tall with vertical branches. The succulent stem is densely furnished with sharp thorns, in between which pairs of oval green leaves are produced during the growing season.
 
Native to dry spiny forests Madagascar. This species has a very limited range and may be a natural hybrid between A. ascendens and A. procera.

Didierea  Baillon 1880
Named for: Col. A. Grandidier 1836 - 1921 French explorer

Two species of very spiny, cactus-like succulent shrubs from Madagascar. The thick stems are furnished with tubercles from which grow groups of 4 or more spines and leaves during the growing season.

Didierea trollii  Capuron & Raugh 1961
a low, shrub from Madagascar. The spiny, succulent stems initially grow along the ground, bearing small deciduous green leaves when in active growth. Mature stems rise 3-6 ft, producing clusters of greenish-white flowers with pink stamens. Prostrate stems also flower occasionally.

Didierea trollii, dormant Didierea trollii, in leaf Didierea trollii, procumbent stem in flower  
Didierea trollii, mature stem

Cultivation: Several members of this family are grown as ornamental species but growth tends to be painfully slow. Didiereaceae are hot-house plants and will not tolerate cold, but are otherwise undemanding. As with other leafy succulents, the appearance of leaves informs the grower that more water is required and less when the leaves are shed. Daily misting helps to refresh the plants, mimicking the nightly dews of their habitat.