Cyphostemma juttae

Origin and Habitat: Namibia from Walvis Bay northwards up to the Kunene River and further east, up to Windhoek and in the Otavi Mountains. This species is known from at least 20 subpopulations, with an extent of occurrence around 20,000 km².
Habitat: It grows in rocky, arid areas covered by open, semi-tropical, fly-infested forest exposed to very dry and hot conditions. It seems to prefer dolomite. When conditions are especially severe, Cyphostemma sheds all its leaves, as these are large and permit water to evaporate. The plant’s acrid taste and poisonous qualities help keep hungry animals away. Population size is suspected to be declining due to collecting.

Description:Cyphostemma juttae, probably the most common of the genus, is a slow-growing succulent ornamental tree with several huge swollen bottle-shaped stems or one thick stem bearing a spreading crown of branches. The broad serrated, blue-green leaves forms a bizarre compact canopy at the top. Every winter it sheds those succulent leaves completely, leaving only the swollen stem. Flowers borne in early summer are inconspicuous but the grape-like bunches of fruit are red, and later purple and definitely attract attention.
Stem: The thick swollen stem or caudex (which makes this plant a caudiciform) usually grows up to 2 m tall and 1 m thick (occasionally to 4 m in height ) and acts as water reservoirs in times of drought. Branches few upright growing, almost as thick as the main stem, tapering. The trunk and branches are thick, woody yellow-green with a white, peeling, papery bark that is very typical of this species. In summer this bark helps to reflect away the sunlight in order to keep the plant cool.
Leaves: Deciduous, emerging each spring at branch tips but falling off going into the winter months. Thick, fleshy, leathery and dimorphic: juvenile plants have simple though deeply lobed leaves. Upon maturing they may become trifoliolate (having three leaflets) and they develop a characteristic winged leaf-stalk. Leaf lobes velvety blue-green, shiny, about 15 cm long with serrated (saw-toothed) edges, and very easy to break by just touching. The leaves are an attractive purple color when first coming up.
Flowers: Inconspicuous, about the same color as the foliage, maybe more creamy-yellow.
Blooming season: Summer
Fruits: Green turning yellow or wine-colored and eventually almost black, containing very toxic levels of tannins in these, so do not eat. Their delicious appearance is deceiving.

Cultivation and Propagation: Cyphostemma juttae is easy to grow, does well in the ground, and makes an impressive specimens, though fairly slow growing. It is also suited to greenhouse culture but do well out of doors in Mediterranean climate. It doesn't like the wet winter but will survive.
Soil: A fast-draining rich, well drained cactus mix should be used when potting. Outdoor plant it in a loamy or sandy soil where drainage is optimal.
Watering: It is drought tolerant, but it appreciates plentifully of water and some fertilizer during the summer growing season, but keep dry in winter in order to prevent rotting. As with all succulents one must be careful not to over-water. These plants can survive with very little water and too often plants die as a result of too much water. Despite coming from areas that are dry in winter, it can adapt to wet-winter areas like coastal California. If one lives in a very wet area, it is best to rather keep plants in big containers where they can be easily moved to a sheltered place.
Exposure: It like lots of sun throughout the year.
Hardiness: Mature plants are hardy to 27°F (-3°C) (or less), but it is best to avoid freezing temperatures especially if the plants are young. Cyphostemma comes from the hot, dry areas of southern Africa, so it has no problem taking temperatures up to 104°F (40°C); however, it may need some afternoon shade in hot climates to avoid leaf burn.
Garden uses: Cyphostemma are very sought-after plants for the garden, as are other caudiciform plants such as baobabs, adeniums and tylecodons. They make superb container or open garden subjects in and around the garden, especially around swimming pools and courtyards. They are ideal accent plants for a rockery, or may be planted in a large container on a sunny protected patio.
Traditional uses: Bushmen in southern Africa use the juice of Cyphostemma to poison the tips of their arrows. The smooth papery bark comes off in fairly large strips and has been used locally to transport honeycomb retrieved from bee's nests by hunter gatherers.
Propagation: Propagate usually from seed that must be prepared, aged and scarified and even then germination is uncertain or by cuttings. Plant seeds in winter 1-2 cm deep in moist, sterile soil. Keep soil temperature consistent at 68-86°F (20-30°C), with some day/variation in this range. Cool soils will significantly delay seed germination time if not inhibit germination altogether. Because seeds need a very long time for germination, take care to use sterile soil, do not reuse soil that was used for other plantings. It is also recommended seeds be germinated in a high humidity environment so constant watering is not necessary. Either germinate seeds in a greenhouse or make a temporary "greenhouse" by covering containers with plastic wrap, or by putting containers inside a ziplock bag. Monitor for fungal growth and air out if/when necessary. Germination tends to be slow and erratic. 6-12 months, sometimes up to 24 months. Propagation can also be undertaken by means of cuttings. Cuttings or truncheons can be made in coarse river sand. Again it is important to water with caution especially when cuttings have rooted.
Warning: The grape-like berries are very decorative but unlike the edible grape they are poisonous.

"Cyphostemma juttae" Text available under a CC-BY-SA Creative Commons Attribution License. 14 Nov. 2005. 07 Mar 2021. </Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Vitaceae/11031/Cyphostemma_juttae>

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