If you are a big fan of weird-looking ornamental plants as we are, there is no better candidate than Dorstenia foetida a.k.a. Grendelion to complete your plant collection! This exotic succulent will win your heart not only with its adorable appearance but also through its friendly character. Keep reading to find out more about Dorstenia foetida!
Dorstenia foetida, otherwise known as Grendelion or Shield flower, is a peculiar, but attractive species of succulents in the Moraceae family. This succulent originates from several regions of Eastern Africa and Arabia, such as Oman, Yemen, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
Although Dorstenia foetida is a pretty rare plant, many succulent growers appreciate it for its overall unique nature. The appearance of this hypnotic succulent gives you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have your own little private island. Moreover, it produces many flower-like structures that resemble the cute sea starfishes with numerous arms or tentacles. These particular two features will bring you the all-inclusive exotic experience at home with no effort!
About Dorstenia Foetida
- This succulent belongs to the Dorstenia genus that contains between 100 and 170 species of plants. It shares this interesting genus with other species like D. barteri, D. crispa, D. gigas, D. horwoodii, D. lavrani, D. turnerifolia, and D. urceolata.
- Dorstenia foetida grows mostly in rock outcrops, open areas, and deciduous and succulent bushlands. It appears at low to slightly higher elevations of 328 to 6890 feet (100-2100 m) above sea level.
- The common name “Shield flower” refers to the flower-like structure of Dorstenia foetida known as hypanthodium. If you ignore the tentacles around them, the multitude of tiny flowers of the hypanthodium look pretty much like a shield.
- Dorstenia foetida a.k.a. Grendelion is a relatively easy to grow and care for ornamental plant. This succulent will have the time of its life if you provide it with bright light, warm temperatures, regular moisture, and a well-draining growing medium.
- The tubers of Dorstenia foetida are edible. In Oman, people use its tubers very often in the preparation of food. However, the tubers are great additions in recipes only cooked and not in high amounts.
- Dorstenia foetida is pretty versatile, having various landscape uses. This plant will look absolutely gorgeous in rock gardens, succulent gardens, desert gardens, and containers. It is also a common indoor ornamental as a bonsai.
- Grendelion can make for fabulous companion plants to other Dorstenia species and cacti or succulents with similar growing requirements. Likewise, you can plant it even near other species of plants that love sunlight and moisture.
- All parts of Dorstenia foetida are quite toxic to both humans and animals if ingested in large quantities. For safety purposes, grow this succulent in a spot where your curious pets or kids cannot reach them.
Dorstenia Foetida Features: An Overview
- Dorstenia foetida is a perennial, evergreen or caducous, caudex-forming, and succulent sub-shrub. This small-growing plant (caudex) can reach up to 16 inches (40 cm) in height and no more than 6 inches (15 cm) in width.
- The trunk of Dorstenia foetida is thick, succulent, wood-like, and dark green to mahogany-tinted. The caudex features prominent and conspicuous round scars of inflorescences, petioles, and stipules in a spiral overall pattern.
- The species is super variable, especially when it comes to leaf sizes and shapes and also the length of its stipules and petioles. The leaves are narrowly lanceolate to elliptic, obovate, or ovate. They can exhibit shades of green, orange, yellow, and red.
- Dorstenia foetida typically blooms during the summer months. This succulent produces many solitary, disc-shaped, and tentacle-featuring flower-like structures called hypanthodiums on small, thick, reddish-green stems.
- The hypanthodiums actually consist of numerous tiny flowers that can measure from 0.2 to 0.8 inches (0.5-2 cm) in diameter. The blossoms appear in various colours, such as green, greyish, pinkish, or orange.
- Once the blooming period has ended, Dorstenia foetida bears fruits that replace the starfish flower structures. The fruits contain many seed pods that open explosively when ripe. They can send the seeds away at considerable distances.
Growing Dorstenia Foetida
Dorstenia foetida is a fairly low-maintenance plant as long as you succeed to mimic the environmental conditions from its natural habitat at home. In general, this succulent can grow just fine in almost any climate worldwide, especially if you want to keep yours only indoors. But let’s find out what particular demands this beauty has!
Light-wise, Dorstenia foetida will tolerate a wide variety of conditions. Depending on the region you live in, this plant can thrive in lots of bright and direct light to partial or full shade. Indoors, put your Dorstenia foetida in the brightest area of your house. In outdoor settings, full sunlight exposure is ideal for this plant to grow healthy. If the afternoon sunlight is too harsh, it is wise to place your succulent in a more shaded location.
When it comes to temperatures, Dorstenia foetida is not as hardy as we’d like. This succulent can withstand cool temperatures that drop only to 35 °F (1.7 °C). In case you live in an area with colder winters, we recommend you grow your Dorstenia foetida in a pot and bring it inside once the autumn comes. Although it doesn’t do well in cold temperatures and prefers warm weather, Dorstenia might wilt if it experiences prolonged hot temperatures. So, it’s best to protect your plant from extreme temperatures.
Although Dorstenia foetida is virtually pest and disease-free, a few issues like aphids, cochineal, and root rot may occur once in a while. If you notice any pests on your beloved plant, you can remove them with a spray of water or insecticidal soap. Apply weekly until you get rid of the intruders.
Root rot usually shows up when this succulent grows in soil that is not well-draining or when it goes through frequent rainfalls. To avoid this from happening, plant your Dorstenia foetida in proper soil and keep it indoors if you live in a very humid area.
Planting Dorstenia Foetida
Dorstenia foetida is a big lover of moisture, but it can also fall prey to root rot with time. Because of this, you should plant your succulent in a substrate that has excellent drainage. The perfect growing medium for this buddy is a commercial potting mix specifically designed for cacti and succulents.
For optimal growth, Dorstenia foetida will need some extra effort on your part. But do not worry, is not as difficult as you might expect! Your plant will benefit from regular feedings with a half-strength-diluted fertilizer that is rich in potassium and phosphorus. Make sure you fertilize your Dorstenia foetida only once during its active growing period, usually in spring.
Dorstenia foetida tends to grow and spread at a relatively slow pace. Still, it will eventually outgrow its pot, so you will have to transplant it in a new one to avoid over-crowding. Repot your succulent in a container that is one size bigger than the current one in early spring or fall.
Watering Dorstenia Foetida
If you already have some succulents in your collection, you should know that Dorstenia foetida is a bit different from most species. In general, this plant needs more moisture than the average succulent does, especially during its active growing season. However, it is susceptible to root rot, so you must adopt a specific watering routine to prevent this from happening.
First things first, make sure you always check the substrate in which your Dorstenia foetida grows before watering it again. When the soil has slightly dried out, but not completely, you can provide your succulent with a nice drink. Keep in mind that Dorstenia foetida goes dormant during the winter months and will do just fine with only a bit of water every now and then.
Propagating Dorstenia Foetida
Since Dorstenia foetida is a self-fertile species, it can usually propagate itself without any extra effort on your part. This particular feature will help your succulent produce many offsets which you can easily remove from the mother plant, then replant them in individual pots. But if you want to control this habit and have some fun along the way, you can collect the seeds just before the plant gets to spread them like crazy.
Once you have the Dorstenia foetida seeds, all you have to do is sow them in a container filled with fresh potting mix. Make sure you provide the seeds with favourable environmental conditions for germination. The seeds will germinate properly with lots of bright light, temperatures of 70 °F (21 °C), and regular moisture. When each seedling has at least a pair of leaves, you can transplant them safely in their own pots.
Dorstenia foetida also responds well to propagation through cuttings. Look for healthy leaves and cut them carefully from the plant with a sterilized knife or scissors. Place the cuttings for a day or so in a protected area where they can form a callous. After this process, you can plant the cuttings in well-draining soil and water regularly to maintain it damp.
With its island-like appearance, lovely starfish flower-like structures, and easy-going nature, Dorstenia foetida can do nothing but be absolutely irresistible. If you want to be the edgiest gardener out there, this peculiar succulent is the perfect specimen to show off with!