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Moraceae

Figs and Mulberries

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Moraceae Gaudich 1835

The family Moraceae includes 37 genera and around 1100 species of herbs, shrubs and trees, mostly with milky sap containing latex. The genus Ficus alone includes 700 species, some of which are economically important and cultivated for their fruit as are the Morus (mulberries) from which the family takes its name. The pollination of Ficus flowers, and therefore the survival of the species, depends entirely on species-specific fig wasps which also rely on their specific Ficus for their own survival.
 
Succulent genera: A few Ficus species are pachycaul succulents. Dorstenia includes mainly succulent and caudiciform herbs.
 
Cultivation: Several species of Ficus ( e.g. F. palmeri ) grow well as self-bonsaiing trees and are fairly undemanding. If overpotted these attractive succulent bonsais turn into larger trees and lose much of their pachycaul growth habit.
 
Many succulent herbaceous Dorstenias are easy to grow but can become a menace in a collection as their 'volunteer' seedlings turn up in every nearby pot. Choice caudiciform Dorstenias such as D. gigas need very free-draining potting mixtures, careful watering and constant warmth.

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Dorstenia  Linnaeus 1753
Named for: Theodor Dorsten 1492 - 1552, German botanist.

The genus Dorstenia includes about 105 species of mainly succulent and caudiciform herbs from mainly tropical Africa and Arabia with individual species from Socotra, India and Ceylon. The tiny flowers are grouped into an interesting and characteristic flat green or brown hypanthodium or "shield flower". Many species are self-fertile. Their seeds are expelled explosively from the mature seed heads and liable to populate pots several feet away. If the seeds are wanted, the hypanthodium must be wrapped in muslin or similar fabric.

Dorstenia barteri var. multiradiata

Dorstenia barteri var. multiradiata  Hijman & C.C.Berg (Contrayerva)
Named for: C. Barter of 1857 Niger expedition 
A small succulent herb growing 8 - 10 in tall with markedly veined leaves. The roots are rhyzomes up to half an inch thick.
 
The sap of this plant has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and said to be an antidote to snake bites. Native to the Cameroon and (naturalised in ?) tropical South America including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Paraquay, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Seen growing at RBG Kew.

Dorstenia christenhuszii

Dorstenia christenhuszii  M.W. Chase & M.F. Fay 2012
Named for: Maarten J. M. Christenhusz, leader of expedition collecting this species. 
This species has glossy leaves with serrate margins and a shuttlecock shaped inflorescence that may be tinged with purple.
 
Native to the Taita Hills of Kenya.
Seen growing at RBG Kew.

Dorstenia ellenbeckiana

Dorstenia ellenbeckiana  Engler 1902
Named for: D. H. Ellenbeck, German physician & plant collector in E. Africa 1900-1901 
The medium-sized 3 - 4 in caudex produces a cluster of deciduous oval leaves with long pinkish petioles, well-defined venation and a variably crinkly margin. The hypanthodium is brick-red.
 
This succulent plant is native to Southern Africa including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, growing in sandy soils at up to 4000 ft above sea level.
This plant was part of a temporary display at RBG Kew.

Dorstenia foetida ssp. lancifolia Dorstenia foetida ssp. lancifolia

Dorstenia foetida  (Forsskål) Schweinfurth 1896
Numerous synonyms including D. crispa var. lancifolia Rendle 1915
Name: Latin foetere to have a bad smell referring to the crushed leaves. 
This variable succulent sub-shrub grows up to 12 ins tall. The greenish basally-swollen stems have petiole scars. Older stems have peeling bark. The stem tips produce a rosette of dark green lanceolate to ovate leaves with undulate margins and prominent veins. The inflorescence is a greyish-green horned hypanthodium comprising many tiny flowers producing pods that open explosively to distribute the seeds.
 
Dorstenia foetida is native to dry bushland and rocky outcrops of East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. In Oman the tubers of Dorstenia foetida are cooked and eaten.
This plant was part of a temporary display at RBG Kew.

Dorstenia gigas Dorstenia gigas

Dorstenia gigas  Schweinfurth 1883 (Socotran Fig Tree)
Name: Greek gigas = giant 
This giant among Dorstenias can grow up to 8 ft tall and 2ft in diameter near to its base. In its habitat the succulent pachycaul trunk adopts a more bottle-shaped morphology than in cultivation. During the growth phase, the tips of branches produce rosettes of green oval leaves with deeply indented venation.
 
This succulent plant is endemic to Socotra in the Indian Ocean, growing on cliffs and rocky slopes where it is endangered by goats. Requires constant warmth. Said to be not self-fertile, so two distinct individuals are needed to produce seed.
 
This splendid specimen was part of a temporary display at RBG Kew, photographed in August and January to show hypanthodiums and leaves respectively.

Dorstenia gigas Dorstenia gigas
 
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Dorstenia hildebrandtii  Engler 1894  Syn. D. carnulosa
Named for: Dr. Johann M. Hildebrandt (1847 - 1881) German botanist 
The fleshy stems grow up to 2 ft tall with ovate non-succulent leaves. The lower stem can develoip a caudex, but growth habit seems quite variable even within one clone.The green hypanthodiums are produced freely and are very self-fertile.
 
Native to Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Zaire. This plant is undemanding but a bit of a weed as it self-seeds in pots all around. Has the potential to be an invasive species in a warm climate.