CAUDICIFORMS and I
This is an article I wrote for the Polish Kaktusy i Inna (Cacti and Others) way back in 2005. und Deutsch
stood among other plants in the living room windows all summer, and all of them
flowered. In the cold winters, the stove had no chance keeping the windows
frost-free at night, and the cacti were placed in the basement, under a sheet of
black plastic, and without receiving any water for five month. I was five,
the summers, we tried to pollinate them, with some succeed, and I got small
cuttings as well. From time to time, I also got small cuttings from my parents
friends, and my collection grew. It stood in a 60x40 centimetres window, facing
south. I had two problems: In summer they grew too much, and in winter I had a
hard time not to water too much. A habit I havenít been able to quit yet!
parents and I started travelling, mainly the
cacti started to be popular in
got rid of the cacti, and started with a few strange succulents and epiphytes.
In 1980, I got a small seedling of
Beaucarnea recurvata; my first caudiciform. Then I discovered animals. Small amphibians,
reptiles and insects. At the peek of this hobby, I had 170 different species.
Made terrariums with the right plants, creating a natural habitat. Now, I
brought back animals from my tours.
left home, and suddenly, time was limited. No time for breading insects for
feeding or maintaining the terrariums. If I canít make it perfect, I wonít
do it. Keeping animals demands full attention.
got rid of the animals, and started with plants again. Strange plants, mainly
succulents, but all kind of weird growing would do. Most of the plants were
collected on trips to
moved, and had to get rid of some of the largest plants. My biggest problem was,
just like with the cacti that my plants always get too big, and I do not like
pruning them excessively. For some years, I worked a lot, and didnít have time
for the plants. I bought a house, and the few remaining plants grew to enormous
sizes. In 1990, I found a
Dioscorea elephantipes, my second caudiciform. In 1998, I found a
moved again. Only two windows, each one meter. Cut back on the large plants, but
kept the three caudiciforms. Two were slow growing, and the third was easy to
prune back, when it was dormant.
did not know anyone else who had plants like this. It was surely all the species
I could find. Then I discovered the large collection in then
2002, Rikke and I planned on going to
I brought back some plants from Australia, and learned the name "caudiciform". That gave me the first clear feeling of, what I actually was collecting. The collection exploded, and I chose to take an education as greenhouse gardener at Botanical Garden In Copenhagen. First half a year in South Africa in a nursery dealing with indigenous plants.
Before I left, I donated my entire collection to Copenhagen Botanical Garden, and started a new, based on taxonomy in South Africa. Had that for a few years during my education, and cut it back to five huge caudiciforms, just before I finished. I started to collect only digitally, and even though I only have these five caudiciforms, I still have the interest!
have members of the century-, yam-, dogbane-, milkweed-, madder-, morning
glory-, cactus-, purslane-, kapok-tree-, cacao-, primrose-, primula-, cucumber-,
passion-flower-, mulberry-, moonseed-, spurge-, grape- and other families.
Everything from giant trees to small herbs.
most of the species, the caudex is a water-reservoir for a dry period. Some of
them have a hollow caudex, in which ants live. In return for this home, they
protect it from other insects.
of the plants lose their branches and vines, when they dry out, leaving only the
caudex and the bigger roots. This reduces evaporation. Others will (in nature)
grow larger and larger, and only flower after many years.
of my plants are dioecious, which means that there are different male- and
female plants. Others are monoecious; both male- and female flowers on the same
plant. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessary mean they can self-pollinate.
Luckily, it is possible to make cuttings of many of them. But, the cuttings
don't necessarily form a caudex.
caudices lay deep down in the ground, protected from extreme weather conditions
and animals. Some of these don't stand to be exposed, which makes them less
interesting to me. Others are partly exposed, and finally there are those which
are fully exposed. This last can be a result of their habitat: Bare rocks with
small cracks, leaving no room for a caudex.
of the caudiciforms are used as a crop around the world, for instance yam.
Others are highly poisonous, as a natural result of living in hostile
environments, where every leaf is valuable for both animals and plants.
I was buried in plants. I build in two glass windowsills in each window, had the
pots in two and three rows. I had to restrict my self somehow. Others make their
limitations by concentrating on one or few families. The Cucurbitaceae,
Euphorbiaceae and Asclepiadaceae families are those with most members. I think
the Asclepiadaceae show the
greatest variation within one family. Some collectors restrict themselves to
trees (pachycauls) but I like the variation, and decided to collect only one or
two members of each family. That way, I would have some limitations.
did a lot of research, and have found more than 100 families. There
might be more, and some of these might be questioned. I do not claim to have the
sole answer, it is up to the professional taxonomists and your personal liking.
Cacti with a caudex
are several cacti, which more or less form a caudex. To name a few:
Maintaining the collection
the beginning, it was humid. We are two persons and 130 plants in 20 square
meters room. The windows face the central square, and noise prevents us for having
the windows open for more than a short moment. I am sure I lost quite a few
plants because of the 100% humidity. Everything else grew: the wall-paper, shoes
and overcoats that hadnít been used for a week..
I bought a air-dryer. Picking three to six litres out of the air every day,
keeping the humidity down on 50%. Good for the wall-paper, but now some of the
other plants were dying. Those from the moist jungles, ant-plants and epiphytes
canít stand the dryness.
do not like to admit it, but it seems rather unlikely I can maintain all plants
in the same small living room. But I try! Those who suffer in the dry air have
their own little greenhouse. It is not optimal, but it works up to some degree.
It seems like I can succeed with a humidity around 70%
It seems like I can succeed with a humidity around 70%
factor, which I would like to be able to control better, is the light. My
windows are facing west, and most of the plants are fare from getting enough
sun. This gives long slim plants, not what Iím looking for. Artificial light
might be useful, but not in my small living room.
third factor, which seems to be a problem to me, is the pots. Because of my lack
of limitation, the windows are packed. Where other collectors of plants re-pots
to larger pots, I always re-pots to smaller ones. Most of the plants looks like
bonsai, after a few years. This makes them vulnerable to drought and
fourth factor, which makes it a bit difficult, is insects and other pests. From time to time, I
get green or black lice, but they are pretty easy to control. A few times I have
got mealy bugs - or shield lice. It has only been the new plants, and a needle
and some patience solved that.
spider mites is a completely different story: they seems to thrive in my dry
air. I can control them, but they always seem to return on other plants. They
seems to prefer the plants from cooler climates, which they can kill within a
week. I give the plant a shower and use poison every week during the summer. I
do not like to use poison, but I hate seeing small midges killing my plants!
How to maintain the plants
the wild, they might only grow for a couple of months a year, but if the
water, the temperature and the sun remains, they might grow all year. Some will
need to be dormant . Most of them donít stand frost or water during that
some people around the world, tap-water isnít good. It can be slightly salty.
Others, like me, live in an areas with ďhardĒ water Ė water with lots of
minerals. Not good for our plants either!
can get clean water from work: We have a diverse osmosis device, which takes 13
kg dry stuff out of 1000 L. Unfortunately, it costs around 5.000 US£, and only
gives 60% of the water for use. Works fine for my plants, but recently, I have
been using the water from my air-dryer. My room was too damp, always close to
100%. Paid around 200 US$ for it, and now I have 2-7 L. of clean water every
day. I do not live in a area with air-conditioners, but Iím pretty sure you
will get some clean water from that as well. I know it wonít be enough for
large collections, but Iím
sure it will be of some benefit for the smaller, private collections.
Books on caudiciforms
on The Web
site might seem a bit confusing, or with a nice word overwhelming. There are
more than 1000 pages with one plant each. Then there are pages with all the
members of one family, pages with all the caudiciforms from one part of the
world, pages with taxonomy, others with dormancy and water/sun needs. Photos
from other collections and habitats. I have done a lot of travelling, and there
are quite a few slide-shows, mainly with cacti, from
is generally made as a Google reference book, far too big to be read from one
end to the other. There are more than 1500 pages total. Have a look at
are getting more and more sites on caudiciforms, but most information can be found at
nursery pages, sometimes one or two plants in between many other plants. When I
looked in 2002, there were eight! There
are links on my site to those nurseries I find the most interesting.
on The Web
This is how the site started. My
good friend Jesper Pedersen transferred the data from my Psion Revo to a single
page, and added the photos. It was in 2001, and in Danish.
Bihrmanns Planter Ver. 1.0
Efirstname.lastname@example.org Hvis du har rettelser eller kommentarer.
|Bowiea volubilis||Liliaceae||S Afrika||Peat||Max||Max||0,1m?m||Whi/Gre*||Se/Root||KÝbenhavn||'00|
|Dioscorea elephantipes M+F?||Dioscoreaceae||S Afrika||Peat||Max||Max||1,0m5m||Yellow||Seed||Roskilde||'90|
|Ipomoea batatas||Convolvulaceae||S Afrika||Mix||Max||Med||Pink*||KÝbenhavn||'00|
|Jatropha podagrica||Euphorbiaceae||C Amerika||Peat||Med||Med||0,2m1,5m||Red*||Seed||Roskilde||'90|
|Kedrostis africana (round)||Cucurbitaceae||Afrika||Mix||Max||Med||Yellow||Se/Cut||Amsterdam||'00|
|Kedrostis africana (serrate)||Cucurbitaceae||Afrika||Mix||Max||Med||Yellow*||Se/Cut||Amsterdam||'00|
|Nolina recurvata (Beaucarnea)||Agavaceae||Sō Mexico||No||Max||Max||1,5m8,0m||Seed||Roskilde||'80|
|Turbina hulubii (Ipomoea)||Convolvulaceae||S Afrika||Grit||Max||Max||Pink*||KÝbenhavn||'00|