– Didiereaceae (2006)

PhotoBy Pam Schnebelen (July 2006)

Didiereaceae is a family of plants from the spiny forests of Madagascar. This southwestern part of Madagascar is a unique ecosystem in which 95 percent of the plants occur nowhere else on the planet. The weather is warm all the time, and soils are poor. Rainfall patterns are acutely dependent upon the seasons. Summers have a lot of rain, while the remainder of the year is totally dry.

The Didiereaceae that dominate this area’s vegetation are “dry season deciduous.” They have a lot of small, succulent leaves during the summer, but drop those leaves in the fall. During the summer, I water these plants every two or three days, and they enjoy rapid growth. During the winter, I do not water them at all.

There are only four genera in the Didiereaceae: Alluaudia, Alluaudiopsis, Decaryia and Didierea. In these genera, there are only 11 species. All are spiny shrubs and trees that can range up to 60 feet tall. Flowers are not significant.

In times past, these plants have been included within the Portulacaceae, which makes them closely related to the cacti. They are related closely enough that Didiereaceae can be grafted onto cacti.