Botanical Name — Fockea edulis
Common Name — Hottentot Bread
Plant Family — Asclepiadaceae
Fockea edulis is an unusual plant that comes from South African and Namibia, where the dry savannah and rocky slopes house its huge, water retaining caudex. This fat, twisted root is often lifted above the soil by collectors to give this plant the impression that it’s actually a miniature, wide-trunked tree. Semi-deciduous, this plant sheds leaves in the winter and relies on stored water for a semi-dormant period. Then, come late summer, it bursts forth with green-copper flowers.
- Hottentot Bread does best in filtered sun, 4 to 5 hours a day. Avoid intense afternoon sun by sheltering this plant beneath the limbs of a larger plant or placing it in the shadow of a sheer curtain. Grow outdoors in light shade or indoors in a sunny window with southern exposure.
- Fockea edulis prefers warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It can become stressed if left in conditions of extreme temperatures or intense sun.
- These plants are not cold hardy, if grown outdoors migrate these plants to a sunny spot indoors when night time temperatures drop below 55 ºF.
- Native to arid and sub-tropical climates, Fockea edulis are drought tolerant plants. Water when the soil dries out in the summer and only infrequently during the winter. Their soil should be allowed to dry out entirely before watering thoroughly.
- If the caudex starts to shrivel up, Fockea edulis is thirsty.
- Fockea edulis prefers a sandy, sharply draining mix. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand or pumice up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage.
- Fockea edulis produce green flowers with copper centers that are lightly scented. most often during late summer. They are pollinated by fruit flies.
- These plants do not require fertilizer though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
- Fockea edulis is most successfully propagated from seed. Cuttings sometimes work, but are usually hit and miss.
- Fockea edulis are attractive to mealy bugs, so keep an eye out for fuzzy white specks in caudex folds.
- Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering. Always err on the side of underwatering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Little maintenance is required to grow these plants.
- This plant loves to be rootbound in a pot. Once planted, they will be happy in the same pot for several years. Repot once every two to three years.
- If you have a young Fockea edulis, do not plan on exposing the caudex until it’s fully established.
- Fockea edulis is a traditional food source for native populations in South Africa, however, a lengthy and complicated process is required to remove alkaloids and render the fruit edible. It should not be consumed by animals or humans.