Philodendrons, Elephant Ears, and Other Aroids forum: Aroid of the Day: Cercestis mirabilis

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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Oct 1, 2019 8:39 PM CST
Cercestis are a genus containing 10 species, from Tropical Africa. They are also known as the African Embossed Aroid, because the white variegation on the juvenile leaves are raised and puffy, like they have been embossed. Of the 10 species, only one (mirabilis) has been widely distributed for sale in the US. They were very popular 10-11 years ago, then fell out of the public eye probably because they are demanding to grow and are one of those plants that do not make good houseplants, no matter what the eBay or Etsy description says. C. mirabilis was first published to science in 1985.

A hemiepiphyte (like Monstera deliciosa and the strangler fig) the plant usually begins life when a bird or animal drops a seed into the crotch of a tree. But this plant canals start life on the ground. They can creep up trees 20-50 feet using extremely adhesive roots to cling. They send adventitious roots to the ground to root.

The stem produces extremely long leafless runners called flagella that creep down the tree and across the ground and produce new juvenile plants where they contact the soil. Once these platelets develop adequate root systems they can be removed. If not removed they will grow and produce flagella of their own until one finds a new tree to climb.

4" spathes are often produced in groups of 2 to 4 and are pollinated by insects. The berries are pink to red and spread by birds, bats and mammals.

This plant requires humidity of 80-85% year round, is water loving but likes a very porous well draining soil.

Cercestis mirabilis is always sold in its juvenile form, which looks quite different from the mature form it eventually takes. Juvenile leaves are attractive and undivided and have the beautiful pattern. As the plant climbs and the leaves mature, they begin to morph into the adult form, which starts with fenestration and ends with a trilobed glossy less patterned leaf that feels leathery to the touch.

Originally assigned to the genus Rhektophyllum, the 10 plants that became the genus Cercestis were removed when it became apparent that they did not meet the proper taxonomic criteria to remain in the old genus.

This photo is of my original plant and was taken in June 2008.
Thumb of 2019-10-02/Gina1960/9f5914
About a year later in August 2009 it had found a totem and started to climb

Thumb of 2019-10-02/Gina1960/20edfc

By October 2009 it was on its way up and climbing well, but in the winter of 2011 I lost the plant and several others in a greenhouse heater failure.

This is my new plant, which I was fortunate enough to obtain this past summer in a trade. So the adventure begins again.
Thumb of 2019-10-02/Gina1960/833bc5

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Southern Indiana (Zone 6a)
I'll quit while I'm ahead...
Annuals Container Gardener Cactus and Succulents Frogs and Toads Growing under artificial light Dog Lover
Houseplants Garden Procrastinator Aroids Tomato Heads Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Native Plants and Wildflowers
Oct 2, 2019 7:27 AM CST
This is what I imagine an alocasia would look like to someone on something psychedelic. It's absolutely gorgeous, though!

I'm glad you have it so that we can appreciate it's rarity and beauty, but also not kill it due to poor conditions. 85% humidity is too high even for a place like Indiana, so I'm sure not much success would be had with it in the houseplant hobby.
Maybe we should get a second opinion...
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Oct 2, 2019 7:43 AM CST
This plant is totally unsuitable for houseplant culture (as are many other aroids which are being sold for hundreds of dollars at auction right now).
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