Dorstenia bahiensis is native to forested areas of eastern Brazil. Its unusual flowers first caught my eye and it is noticeably different from any other plant I know. Is this a plant worthy of your garden? Read on to find out more.
I was first drawn to the unusual flowers of Dorstenia. The 1-2″ flowers look like an odd fungus held above the leaves. Varying in color from deep purple to a light lavender, the slightly cupped flower is hard to the touch although it looks as though it could easily be a slimy mass. With a nod to its fig relatives, the flowers look kind of like if you turned an edible fig inside out.
Top Tropicals cites “At maturity, seeds shoot ballistically from the mature flower/fruit heads, and they germinate readily whenever the land on soil or other moist substrate.” It sounds violent but these are not an aggressive type of spreading plant.
In the Amazon basin Dorstenia bahiensis prefers moist soil and shady growing conditions. Dry conditions will cause it to go dormant but you can see that when it is happy it does add a tropical look to the garden. There is certainly a place in most shade gardens for a low plant with glossy, evergreen leaves.
I’ve read that it can be easily propagated by seed, although I don’t know when/how to capture those catapulting propagules! The large group pictured allowed me to easily pull a few small plants from the outer edge to transplant. Most plants that go dormant in dry conditions tend to be easy to transplant and I am keeping my fingers crossed these are similar.