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What is Ceropegia?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Ceropegia is a plant genus in the Apocynaceae family. It contains about 160 species of perennial flowering plants that are native to several countries including Madagascar, India, South Africa and the Canary Islands. Ceropegia plants generally have tubular flowers that are used to capture insects and long stems that wind through underbrush and up walls. Common names of these plants include: lantern flower, parachute flower, string of hearts, wine-glass vine, and snake creeper. The word 'ceropegia' is derived from the Greek word 'keros' and 'pege', which translate to 'wax' and 'fountain' respectively. This describes the waxy texture and long, cascade-like shape of the flower.

The tubular flower of the ceropegia features specific structures that aid in the pollination process. Since the pollen mass is located deep within the flower, an insect must travel quite a distance to reach it. To increase the chances of pollination, hair like strands project along the interior walls of the flower. The hairs are directed downward and become stiff as the insect passes by, which generally prevents the insect from retreating.

For about four days, the insect is trapped within the flower. During this time, the insect typically picks up the pollen sacs. Afterward, the flower wilts, and the hairs relax, allowing the insect to escape from the flower. With the pollen in tow, the insect is free to land on other flowers to complete pollination.

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One of the species within the genus is Ceropegia ampliata, which was first discovered in 1830 by J.F. Drège in South Africa. It features a fleshy rootstock and extremely small, heart-shaped leaves that typically shed early in the season. It usually blooms from December to March. Most of the food produced from photosynthesis occurs in the stem, which is generally hairless. The pale-green to white flowers feature claw-like segments at the opening of the tubular structure.

It is best to grow Ceropegia ampliata in containers outdoors, usually on patios or balconies. The soil should be light and sandy with some compost mixed into it. During the winter, the ceropegia requires very little water, and in the summer it generally requires frequent watering. If the soil becomes soggy or does not drain well, it can affect the development of ceropegia.

Additional concerns with growing Ceropegia ampliata include insect infestation. Flies, in particular, are attracted to the unpleasant scent of the flower and may become a nuisance. Other insects, such as aphids, can damage the root system of the plant and leave behind a sticky residue, which usually attracts fungal spores.

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