Fockea (2002)

PhotoBy Pam Schnebelen (October 2002)

In August, we looked at the stapeliad group of the family Asclepiadaceae. These plants are all stem succulents with thick, soft and juicy branches. This month, we will focus on a different group from the milkweed family – the genus Fockea.

Fockeas produce both thick stems and twining vines from their wart-covered caudices. Like the other asclepiads, they produce five-pointed, star-shaped flowers with interesting geometries. Many have foul smells, too. Seed pods are comparatively large, come in twos, and look like small, brown bananas. The seed pods are commonly called “horns.”

Fockeas are understory vining plants from southern and eastern Africa. In habitat, all or part of the caudex resides underground in the shade of a protecting tree or shrub. The annually growing vines use the stems of the covering plant for support as they reach for sunlight. Fockea branches may be retained from year to year, but most leaves are shed during the dry season.

In captivity, caudex growth is rapid when the plants are young. The most robust growth occurs with young plants in large pots. As the plants age, caudex growth slows and may effectively stop. While the leaves enjoy heat and hot sun, the caudex appreciates a cooler, shadier environment. Plants are easily grown from a stem cutting, but it is difficult to get cuttings to produce roots.

My favorite fockeas are Fockea edulis and Fockea crispa.

Bring your fat fockeas to the HSCS meeting on Sunday. Bring those plants that you are struggling with, along with the beautiful show plants. We can discuss cultivation information from both bad and beautiful examples. Don’t forget to bring your faves for the Brag Table, too!