Remusatia vivipara

Sometimes, to our great surprise and delight, we come upon plants in the wild that previously we have only admired in the botanical garden. Some readers may have seen, at least in a picture, that many trees, for instance in southern India, are attacked by stranglers of the genus Ficus, for example F. bed-domei. This plant grows as an epiphyte at first, later anchoring in the ground when its roots reach down to the soil. The roots then begin to thicken, and after a time become joined to form an impermeable mantle round the trunk of the tree, which eventually dies. The roots are not joined completely, leaving spaces where fallen leaves and the rotted wood of the original tree trunk collect, in other words a substrate that provides nourishment for a number of epiphytes. And it is in such places that we often find Remusatia vivipara.

Nourishing humusy compost, shade and frequent feeding are recommended for its cultivation in the home; in the wild, however, it is improbable that one will come across these plants growing in any way other than in the described manner (even though there is plenty of room in the humus at the base of the trees).

Remusatia vivipara is a tuberous plant. Growing from the tuber, which is nearly spherical, are several stalks about 30 cm (1 ft) long, bearing shield-shaped, cordate-ovate leaves about the same length as the stalks. They are vivid green in colour with prominent veins. Very attractive, but unfortunately not long-lived, is the flower, or rather the inflorescence, with its vivid yellow spathe. Stolons which produce small tubers also grow from the base. It is this method of vegetative reproduction that has earned the plant its name ‘vivipara’.

Probably the best method of growing this plant is as a partial epiphyte in a light mixture of peat, rotted wood dust and charcoal. Additional feeding promotes rapid growth, particularly in young plants, the same as syringing the foliage. It can also be grown in the traditional way as a pot plant. Propagation is very simple — by means of the tiny tubers.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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