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

This plant is found in Africa and can take a lot of drought. It is an ideal plant for the living room; it can be grown in the full sun, so a windowsill is no problem and it can take the dry heat of the central heating. It is very easy to grow from seed, but the seed needs to be fresh. It can germinate within one or two days. The more sun it gets, the quicker it will flower, possibly within six months.
Wild Adeniums are usually various shade of red, but occasionally white ones do appear. In Thailand, a lot of breeding has taken place and because of the inherent colour variation in the wild plants, a whole range of colours are now available in cultivation, ranging from white to very dark red and all shades in between. Efforts are now made to produce a true yellow one.

Adenium obesum pink


Adenium obesum alba

Have a look at the post on Pachypodium bispinosum for more information on the germination of the seed.

This species comes from southern Africa; it is reasonably easy to grow and is very popular because of its large flowers. The flowering period is July-October. Because of the thick ring around the centre of the flower, it is also listed as one of the ‘lifebuoy Huernias’.
The plant requires a minimum temperature of 10-15┬░C in winter to do well. It is easily propagated by cuttings which can be left to dry for about a week or so before planting. In the greenhouse it prefers to be kept in the shade as too much exposure to the sun can cause burning.
Not all experts class this subspecies as magnifica, but as ssp. zebrina, but they all mean the same plant. If you want to read more about this species, see: P.V. Bruyns, Stapeliads of Southern Africa and Madagascar, volume 1, pp. 168-172.

 

Huernia zebrina var. magnifica

Huernia zebrina var. magnifica