This plant grows in the cloud forest of Brazil. It is seldom seen in cultivation and has a similar growth habit as the Solandra of which it is a relative. The Markea can grow to a height of 2 metres and flowers easily. The flowers are green with a reddish tint on the outside. They are 9 cm long, 10 cm if you include the protruding stems. The flower is bell-shaped and 3 cm in diameter. The tips of the petals fold back. The leaves are 13 x 4 cm and are not positioned opposite each other, contrary to the position of the leaves in other plants which tend to grow in opposite pairs. The stems have a reddish tint.

There are a few other species of Markea, which I have not seen myself, but four are shown on the Cornell University website (see here). The plant can flower from cuttings after about 6 months as the one in the photo did. That particular plant was 23 cm high when I took the photo. The flower lasted about 2 weeks and I tried self-pollinating it in the hope to get fruit and seed, but it did not work. The flower dropped off, which may suggest that cross-pollinating is necessary. Unfortunately, I do not have a second plant, so will have to find one.

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Mimosa pudica is commonly called the sensitive plant. The name Mimosa comes from the Greek mimos (to mimic) because when touched, the plant ‘mimics’ animals that shrink away from being touched. The sensitivity of the leaves is a protection against grazing animals; the plant has the capability of feeling the animal approaching through air movement or vibration. Tapping the pot or touching the leaves will have the same effect; they will close up. Once the leaves have folded up, animals ignore them, not just grazing animals, but, for instance, grasshoppers interpret the closing of the leaves as a trap shutting them in and they will jump away. The warmer it is, the quicker the reaction of the leaves. The leaves fold upwards, contrary to those of Biophytum, which close downwards.
The plant originates from South-America, but has now spread over most of the world to all parts where there is no frost and sufficient water. It can be seen growing on the side of the road where it is will stay shorter than in other habitats, because of poor soil conditions. The plant has become a weed in some countries, esp. in Australia, because it does not have any natural (grazing) animals there.
It is a very easy plant to grow from seed; the seed needs to be soaked in water for 24 hours before sowing and then it can be sown under plastic. In about a week or so, germination takes place. To get a nice bushy plant, it is better to sow a few seeds in a plants rather than just one. The plant will flower in the first year producing pink flowers. Rubbing the flowers together, will pollinate them and in this way you can produce your own seed. Although the plant is a perennial, it is normally grown as an annual, because it will grow straggly and untidy if left to grow on. The plant can be grown in full sun without any problem, but do not let it dry out, because once it had dried out, it will not recover again.
It is an ideal plant for children to play with. After closing up, the leaves will reopen after about a quarter of an hour in good weather. The plant suffers no harm being played with in this way, unlike the Venus flytrap which will be killed if forced to close too often.

Mimosa pudica

Mimosa pudica leaves

Mimosa pudica

Mimosa pudica flower and closed-up leaf

This perennial climber comes originally from South-America, but has now spread over most of the the warmer parts of the world. It is also known as Madeira or Potato vine. Growers in Europe have this as a collector’s plant in their greenhouse, whereas in the warmer parts of the world, they are trying to get rid of it. In some countries is has even become an invasive weed that is difficult to eradicate, because it is almost impossible to get rid of all the small tubercles. When you dig up the plant, the small tubercles that have formed on the stems fall off very easily.
Cutting the stems and leaving the branches lying around does not help to kill the plant, because there is enough energy left in the stems to produce the small tubers. If you really want to get rid off the plant, you need to burn the stems (make sure you gather up all the tubercles that have fallen off) or poison the plant with Glyphosate. You need to do the latter by scraping the bark and putting the poison on the wound so it will be taken into the plant. A bit harsh, but it is the only way unless you happen to live in a country where the temperatures fall below zero, because they cannot take any frost.
Anredera can grow to up to 9 metres long and has bright green heart-shaped leaves. In the autumn, it produces large numbers of small fragrant flowers in racemes. It can grow in semi-shade or full sun and can take a lot of drought. It is propagated mostly by tubercles, rarely by seed. Because it is such a rampant grower, it can be cut back almost to the tuber and it will come back and flower the following year – an ideal beginners plant.

Anredera cordifolia

Anredera cordifolia


 
Anredera cordifolia raceme

Anredera cordifolia raceme


 
Anredera cordifolia tubercle

Anredera cordifolia tubercle

This tropical asclepiad originates from South-America and is now widespread in most (sub-)tropical regions of the world, such as Spain. It is both drought-tolerant and the opposite; it can take plenty of rain. It is a climbing plant that can grow to up to 5-10 metres high. In some countries it is now considered to be a weed, but it is nevertheless a highly ornamental plant, producing pink-striped white flowered. The flowers are scented all day, unlike some asclepiads, among them some hoyas for instance, which are only scented at night. The plants are mainly moth-pollinated, certainly in their country in origin, but in other countries where they have established and the correct type of moth is not present, the pollination is done by bees. Araujias are known as the cruel plant, because if the wrong type of moth (i.e. too small a moth) tries to pollinate the flower, its tongue will get stuck in the pollination system, and unable to escape, it will die. Bees and larger moths do not get stuck because they are heavy enough to pull free. Seedpods produce up to a few hundred seeds per pod. The seed is carried on the wind by small parachutes, similar to thistles.
Araujias are close relatives of the Dregea from China, of the Periploca from the Mediterranean and of the Stephanotis from Madagascar and are very easy to grow as houseplants, being able to grow in shade or sun, and not fussy as regards soil. The only limiting factor is frost. The flowering period is summer. Propagation is mainly from seed, but cuttings are also possible.

Araujia sericifera

Araujia sericifera


Araujia sericifera

Araujia sericifera

Jatropha podagrica is native in South-America where it can grow into a large flowering shrub. It is now found in Africa and Asia as well, because this plant is propagated in nurseries and due to the springing of the seed when ripe the plant has escaped from the nurseries into the wild where it can establish itself. Due to the poisonous nature of the sap, there are few creatures that will attack it. Jatrophas belong to the Euphorbiaceae which can be seen by the seedpod that is divided into three sections, each containing one seed.
It is a plant that requires warmth; it will die if the temperature drops to 5°C for a prolonged period. The ideal temperature is at least 15°C. The plant is very easy to cultivate as long as the temperature is high enough, not requiring a specific type of soil; it can be grown in the full sun or above the central heating with little water. It can remain in this position all the year round, not requiring a colder period in winter. There is now a yellow form available besides the more usual orange. The yellow one will now come back true from seed which it did not do until a few years ago. If you cross the yellow with the orange, however, the orange will dominate and you could lose the yellow altogether.

Jatropha podagrica orange

Jatropha podagrica orange

Jatropha podagrica yellow

Jatropha podagrica yellow

This species was found by Carl Wercklé in Costa Rica. It also occurs in Columbia, Western Venezuela, Ecuador and Northern Peru. It can be found in altitudes up to 2100 mtrs. It is one of the forms, or is closely related to R. micrantha, all depending on which botanist you believe. The plant can reach a lenghth of about 1.5 metre. The flowers are small and white with a green base.
The plant is very easy to grow and propagate. It will take various conditions, from quite cool to quite warm (10-25°C) and it grows fairly quickly, giving a sizeable plant in a couple of years. They are best grown in hanging pots to give the leaves enough room to develop.

Lit.: Berger, A., Rhipsalis Wercklei Berger n. sp. in Monatsschrift für
Kakteenkunde
, vol. 16 (1906), p. 64—65

Rhipsalis wercklei

Rhipsalis wercklei

This is a very popular and easily recognisable species of Rhipsalis. The leaves look similar to a small Epiphyllium; there are distinctive spines on the edge of the leaves. In the spring it produces large – that is: large for a Rhipsalis – orange flowers. After flowering it produces pale pink berries. Synonyms: Rhipsalis monacantha, Lepismium monocanthum. As with all Rhipsalis, it is epiphytic, so keep it out of the full sun.

Acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Acanthorhipsalis monacantha

Acanthorhipsalis monacantha berries

Acanthorhipsalis monacantha berries