Biophytum sensitivum comes from Africa and India and grows to about 20cm high in a rosette which gives the impression of a small palm tree. As with other similar plants, such as the Maranta, the leaves shut at night. It does not require special soil, but keep it moist at all times. Most people know the plant Mimosa pudica, the sensitive plant, but another plant, less well-known, is the Biophytum sensitivum which also has similar properties of being able to close up its leaves for protection. However, in this case, the leaves are folded downwards whereas on the Mimosa they are folded upwards. The only pests that may attack the plant are fungus gnats whose larvae gnaw away at the base of the stem. In the wild, other plant-eating insects will try to feed on this plant, but to combat this, the plant folds its leaves and the insect falls off. As the leaves also contain the poison oxalate, it is not clear why the plant has this additional leaf-folding protection.

The Biophytum was first described in 1753 as Oxalis sensitivum, possibly because Oxalis and Biophytum shoot out their seeds in similar ways. This is a sure way of reproducing itself as at least some of seeds fall onto good soil and will germinate quite quickly. Watch out for this phenomenon in your greenhouse, as you may end up with Biophytums all over the place. This only happens if you keep the temperatures above 16° C. at all times, as they do not like cold. It is an ideal plant for terrariums with their high humidity and low light, because that imitates their natural conditions. It is an annual, but it will live for more than one year. Make certain to save some seed while it is available, because the plant may suddenly die and you would be left with nothing. The flowers do not have to be cross-polinated, so one plant is enough to produce seed. When the seedpod is ripe, it will open up into a star-like structure in which you can clearly see the seeds. It opens up in the morning and by the afternoon, all the seeds have sprung, so make sure to collect them in time.

Biophytum sensitivum

Biophytum sensitivum


Biophytum sensitivum seed pod

Biophytum sensitivum seed pod

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