Cissus a Tale of Two Cissus

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I am recovering from a wave of trips to London that have brought a level of human interaction unprecedented since the beginning of March 2020: a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show, another work-related visit and a trip (totally independent of work) to MCM Comicon.

At Comicon, I felt like I was swimming in a sea of (mostly) missed cultural references. Chewie, the Daleks and give the wolf a Banana I got; Anime and computer game characters, not so much. Fortunately, I had my children on hand to explain who Wario is and why Inosuke Hashibira wears a pig’s head.

It reminded me of the process of trying to learn more about indoor plants: they will sometimes feel lost (often at first), they will gradually find their place and begin to understand the difference between an Aroid and a fern, but there will always be something new to learn. My advice is to gather as many knowledgeable people around you as possible (in person or via the medium of your book, your social networks or your website) and not be afraid to ask questions.

 

The first thing I like to do when I have a positive identity document for a plant* is to search for it on Kew’s Plants of the World Online to find out where it comes from and where it has been naturalized. This will help to refine the climate and landscape in which it grows and, consequently, whether it will thrive in the growing conditions of my house. Take two species of the same genus – Cissus dicolor and Cissus rotundifolia.

Both seem to be plants of the day in indoor plant shops, although C. rotundifolia seems more difficult to find: both have also appeared in Chelsea’s indoor plant studios ** this year. The Begonia Rex vine, as it is called C. discolor (it is not begonia), is native to South and Southeast Asia, so it loves moisture and heat very much. Meanwhile, C. rotundifolia grows in the dry forests of eastern Africa and is much more tolerant of drying out the roots. One of the other species that grow on the same territory is the legendary tolerant plant Zamioculcas zamiifolia or ZZ. So, I know from experience that this plant is much more likely to thrive in my particular home than its relative, C. discolor.

This is the kind of research that can save you a lot of time and money. Yes, impulse purchases always happen, but being aware of a plant’s needs before buying it is the kind of knowledge that sets you on the path to true plant enlightenment.

PS: I found the title of this piece after writing it, even though I studied Charles Dickens at University. Unlikely, but true.

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