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Dendroseris litoralis

This is a rare look at the endangered species, Dendroseris litoralis - the Cabbage Tree!  This unusual plant comes from a small, isolated group of islands 400 miles off the coast of Chile.  At one point there were only 3 plants left in the 1980s, and today it is still critically endangered.  It is very rare in cultivation, usually only seen in botanical gardens.  It took me 10 years to find it!  This is a cool-climate species that might not thrive in warm climates.  If you can provide the right conditions, it is a fun and intriguing plant to grow.

Dendroseris litoralis

The Cabbage Tree comes from the Juan Fernandez Islands in the Pacific.  It is an evergreen, perennial species in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).  It's unusual for its palm-like shape, and rubbery, tennis racket-sized leaves that can get 18 inches long.  The plant grows to about 7 feet tall here in San Francisco, although in a greenhouse it is said to grow twice that size!  The leaves not only look like cabbage, they are also edible.  In fact they once sustained Alexander Selkirk, the castaway who inspired the book Robinson Crusoe.  When goats and other animals were brought to the islands, the Cabbage Tree was nearly eaten to extinction.

Dendroseris litoralis - Cabbage Tree

Dendroseris litoralis - Cabbage Tree

The Juan Fernandez Islands have a cool, maritime climate, so the plant is happiest in mild temperatures, with nights that are cool.  I don't know if it will thrive if temperatures regularly get above about 85 degrees F (30 degrees C) and nights are warm (above 65F / 18C).  It can probably survive a few degrees of frost, but i recommend protecting it from freezing temperatures.  It grows well indoors in a pot.  It prefers partly-sunny conditions, with some protection from strong afternoon sun.  On the Islands, it grows in parched, rocky areas, however i find it has high water needs and requires regular watering if grown in a pot.  Grow it in well-draining soil, and feed it regularly.  In the right conditions, it is a vigorous grower.

Dendroseris litoralis - Cabbage Tree

Dendroseris litoralis - Cabbage Tree

 

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Turquoise Puya

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