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Fockea edulis (Hottentot Bread)

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Scientific Name

Fockea edulis K.Schum.

Common Names

Hottentot Bread

Synonyms

Brachystelma macrorrhizum, Chymocormus edulis, Fockea cylindrica, Fockea glabra, Pergularia edulis

Scientific Classification

Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Fockeeae
Genus: Fockea

Description

Fockea edulis is a semi-deciduous, perennial caudiciform with succulent tuberous roots that are twisted and gray colored with wart-like tubercules. The caudex is up to 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter and grows faster if it is covered with soil. The thin vine branches are up to 13 feet (4 m) long and climb on any type of available support. They will lose some leaves in winter but rarely goes completely leafless. The leaves are oval, green and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. The flowers are whitish-green, vygie-like and up to 0.6 inch (1.5 cm) across and usually appear in summer. This plant is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants.

Photo via llifle.com

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

A gritty compost with some humus is suitable. The tubers are best planted on the surface of the compost, and the vegetative growth allowed to twine around supports which should be larger than initially appears to be necessary as the foliage will outgrow almost any support provided. The foliage attracts whitefly and periodic spraying with an insecticide or fumigation may be required to control this problem. Also watch out for mice.

Growth of the tubers to a showable size is faster if they are buried in the compost, which can be partly removed for showing. To increase the size of the tuber at a measurable rate, the plant should be well fed with high nitrogen fertilizer. Tubers do not seem especially prone to rotting but can collapse suddenly. A minimum over-wintering temperature of 40 °F (5 °C) is adequate providing the plants are kept fairly dry. Several species retain their leaves throughout the year, although this depends tremendously on the cultural conditions.

Vegetative propagation is difficult to impossible and Fockeas are dioecious so one of each sex is needed to obtain seed. However, seed grows easily and is the best method of propagating these plants.

Origin

Fockea edulis is native to South Africa and Namibia.

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