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Turquoise Puya

Cyphostemma juttae

Freaky!  Cyphostemma juttae - the Tree Grape - is a rare, crazy-looking succulent from South Africa and neighboring Namibia.  It forms a bizarre canopy of serrated, blue-green leaves that emerge each spring from swollen, tree-like trunks.  Each plant takes on a unique shape, with its own "personality".  The plants normally grow to 6 or 7 feet tall, but they can potentially reach 12 feet!  This is a great species for fans of funky caudex plants!

Cyphostemma juttae

Cyphostemma juttae is an odd member of the Grape family (Vitaceae).  It's a summer-growing species that sheds its leaves during winter, showing off its attractive caudex and stems.  The fat, succulent trunks are lined with a papery, peeling bark.  The saw-toothed leaves look truly bizarre, like some sort of carpenter's tool!  The foot-long leaves have a rubbery texture, and are curled upward along the edges, possibly to catch water.

Cyphostemma juttae

Flowers appear in the summer, followed by attractive, grape-like berries.  Despite their tasty look, the fruits should not be eaten, since they contain a toxin.  This is a slow-growing, long-lived plant.  While it will take many years to reach maximum size, it is handsome at any age!

Cyphostemma juttae

Cyphostemma comes from hot, dry areas in southern Africa.  It has no problem taking temperatures in the 90s (35C), although it may need some afternoon shade in hot climates to avoid leaf burn.  It can handle winter temperatures in the upper 20s (-2C), but it's best to protect it from frost.  It is easily grown indoors in a pot.  Grow it in fast-draining soil, such as cactus mix.  It is drought-tolerant, but it appreciates some water and fertilizer during the summer growing season.  Despite coming from areas that are dry in winter, it can adapt to wet-winter areas like coastal California.

Cyphostemma juttae - Tree Grape

Photo # 1 courtesy of Alan Butterfield, #2 by Andrew Massyn, # 3 by Marco Schmidt, #4 by Pamla J. Eisenberg

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