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Saturday, August 23, 2008

What Is This Plant?

In a previous post I mentioned that I have a houseplant that is older than I am. It was given to my mother when she married in 1931. It is a sweet little plant in a very small pot. She once told me where she got it, and said that it was still in the same pot, and then she said, "Every now and then I put a little water on it." She had it in the East facing window above her kitchen sink. To make a long story short, many years later I brought it to live in the East facing window of my kitchen. It is still in the same little pot, and every now and then I put a little water on it.

We have never known what it is. It has always reminded me of Jack-Rocks, or you may call it Jacks, the pickup game that children play. Maybe someone reading this will recognize it. I have five photos of it; I will just show them all.

Maybe I should mention that it has teeny-tiny little hairs all over it. It is slightly fuzzy.

Addendum: August 25, 2008

Thank you to everyone who pitched in and helped with identifying this unusual plant. You set me on the right path to tracking its lineage. At first I started out by using elimination. Then I followed clues.

Some people suggested it might be pencil plant, Euphorbia tirucalli. I read awhile at some suggested web sites, and looked at photos. It does look very similar to pencil plant, but this plant does not have the burning, milky sap. (I am happy to
say.) So, I am ruling that one out.

Others seemed to think it is Hatiora salicornioides (Dancing Bones Cactus a.k.a. Drunkard's Dream, and Spice Cactus). I visited the referenced web sites, and read both of them. My plant is very similar to that, but not exactly. Most of the H.
salicornioides plant is smooth, but mine is fuzzy, nor do the terminal ends look like those in the photos.

However, during my reading I noticed a reference to 'mistletoe cactus'. I dug deeper into that one.

In the genus Rhipsalis are over 60 South American species and varieties, plus synonyms.* (One of the synonyms is Hatiora salicornioides.) Their center of diversity is South America, primarily Brazil. But among the Rhipsalis, one species is considered a biogeographical mystery because it is scattered over several divergent areas of the world; that one is Rhipsalis baccifera, 'Mistletoe Cactus'.

I studied several photographs of varieties of Mistletoe Cactus and they looked like my plant, plus descriptions mentioned the soft white "hairs". Mine has never bloomed so I cannot identify it further. Based on its age, I am sure it is a species plant as opposed to a natural or cultivated variety.

In the wild they are epiphytic
plants getting shade from the trees in which they grow, and frequent showers. They need more moisture and humidity than a cactus.

I think mine was getting too much sun in the S.E. window; mother's was more N.E., so I have moved it to a better location. And, it is probably very unhappy having been confined to that little pot all these years. For sentimental reasons I will leave it as is, but I may try taking a cutting and rooting it to be grown on in a larger pot.

I think cultural requirements are similar to that of the Christmas Cactus that I inherited from my paternal grandmother. But, that is another story.

* desert-tropicals.com


kd said...

Could it be Hatiora salicornioides -- check out http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/55382/


Anonymous said...

What an interesting houseplant Barbee. I've never seen that one before. It's nice that your mom passed it on to you.

Carol said...

It likes sort of like Pencil Plant, Euphorbia tirucalli

Or check it out here http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/53909/

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

garden girl said...

aw, it's very sweet. There are so many interesting succulents. I hope you can get an ID on it. It would be nice to know what the name of this distinguished resident is.

How cool to have a plant with such a long history. Imagine all the years of kitchen table conversations it's been around for!

mr_subjunctive said...

It's totally Hatiora salicornioides. Kd nailed it.

Lauri said...

I'm thinking pencil cactus (aka "milk brush").




Barbee' said...

I have addressed comments in an addendum to the post.

Victoria said...

Sorry, I know you posted about this ages ago. But I saw a rhipsalis today at a flower show in London that looked just like yours. I instantly thought of you the minute I laid eyes on it! The one I saw was labelled Rhipsalis prismatica and it was bright green. They had another hairier one, but it was a different colour, a sort of reddy-brown, and it was VERY hairy. Unfortunately they didn't have any on the stand for sale, or I would have bought one.

Barbee' said...

Victoria (England): Oh, that is amazing! Mine was a bit faded out looking, then when I read that they live up in the trees where it is shady, I moved it away from the window pane. I think it is beginning to look some greener. Yes, this one is hairy. After reading those articles, I now know there are many different species and varieties. Live and learn :) That is so neat that you remembered this post when you saw that plant. I am curious to know(if you get this reply), about its size. I have always thought this one is so small because it has always been in this tiny pot. I think they do get larger.

Victoria said...

Hi, Barbee! Yes, it's amazing what one manages to dredge up from the depths of one's mind at the most unexpected moments :D
The one I saw was in a pot, exhibited by Richard and Sheena Drane, who run a nursery in Suffolk specialising in cacti and succulents. They don't seem to have a website unfortunately, but you can email Sheena at sheenadrane@btinternet.com. I guess the plant was about one foot high and the same across, perhaps a tiny bit bigger. It made a sort of dome, whereas the brownier one seemed to trail more.
I can see why people thought your plant might have been Hatiora salicornioides. But when you look at it close up, the Rhipsalis doesn't have those sort of swollen ends - it really does look like Jacks.

Barbee' said...

Oh, good, Victoria, that confirms what I suspected. They do get larger. Thank you so much for sending me all this info.