Nertera granadensis: Coral-bead Plant

The pine forests of the southern hemisphere are the home of the genus Nertera comprising only 8 species. What they are like is evident from their name, for the Greek word nerteros means low. They are truly prostrate, cushion plants with delicate foliage and inconspicuous flowers but beautiful small fruits.

Nertera granadensis (syn. N. depressa) grows in the Andes in Central and South America but may also be encountered in the mountains of New Zealand and Tasmania. It makes small cushions of appressed stems with tiny round leaflets resembling those of the well-known Helxine soleirolii, or mind-your-own-business. The tiny greenish flowers, which generally escape notice, appear in May and June and are followed by striking orange-red fruits up to 6 mm (’’4 in) across. These attain their bright coloration in mid-August and remain on the plant until well into winter, in other words for more than half a year.

As a mountain plant of the southern hemisphere nertera has two basic requirements: ample air and cool conditions in winter. It is not long-lived in a warm home, sometimes surviving only the first winter but often not even that. It must therefore be grown where the premises may be aired frequently and where the temperature in winter can be kept at 10°C (50°F), in other words best of all in a conservatory, corridor, or in a slightly heated greenhouse, the kind erected for certain cacti.

Nertera has a relatively shallow root system and may thus be used for dish arrangements together with any other plants, particularly if they are shrubs that form stems and it is necessary to cover the surface of the compost. A slightly acid and quite rich compost is required. This can be achieved by mixing loam with an equal amount of peat.

Propagation is easy, either by detaching the prostrate stems that form roots or by cuttings (both in August) or else by means of seed. Neither cuttings nor seeds need much heat for rooting or germinating and should therefore be put in a cool, moist spot.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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