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Cussonia arborea (Octopus Cabbage Tree)

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Scientific Name

Cussonia arborea Hochst. ex A.Rich.

Common Names

Octopus Cabbage Tree

Synonyms

Brassaia mannii var. camerounensis, Cussonia barteri, Cussonia delevoyi, Cussonia djalonensis, Cussonia hamata, Cussonia homblei, Cussonia kirkii, Cussonia laciniata, Cussonia longissima, Cussonia nigerica, Cussonia tisserantii

Scientific Classification

Family: Araliaceae
Subfamily: Aralioideae
Genus: Cussonia

Description

Cussonia arborea is small to medium sized deciduous tree up to 43 feet (13 m) tall. The bark is rough, corky and pale brown. The leaves are digitate or palmate with 5 to 9 ovate-elliptic leaflets with up to 20 inches (50 cm) long petioles. The flowers small, borne in terminal clusters of slender spikes up to 20 inches (50 cm) long. The fruits are borne along the elongated spikes, spherical, up to 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) in diameter, thinly fleshy and purple when ripe.

Photo via copperflora.org

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Cussonia is easy to grow from seed and does not require much care. Most species are drought tolerant and prefer a sunny spot to grow. Protect them from frost and grow in a well-drained and slightly rich soil. These plants can handle an occasional and mild frost, but a chill will make the leaves fall off. Water regularly.

All the members of this genus form a swollen stem base beneath the ground and care must be taken not to damage this when planting out.

The best method of propagation is by means of seed harvested from fresh ripe fruits. Sow seed as soon as possible as it loses much of its viability within 3 months. However, seed sown in summer months will germinate faster (in about 4 weeks) than seed sown in winter (7 weeks to germination). Make sure seed trays are at least 6 inches (15 cm) in depth to allow the small tubers to form. Do not allow seed to become waterlogged or dry out. Keep seed and seedlings in a semi-shaded area. Seedlings can be transplanted at about 4 months, but be very careful not to damage the fleshy roots when transplanting… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Cussonia

Origin

It is widely distributed throughout tropical Africa.

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