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Origin and Habitat: Cyphostemma montagnacii has a restricted range in south-western Madagascar (Tolinara). It is found in the eastern and western sides of the Table Mountain on deep and sheltered ravines that dig the edges of the limestone plateau, mostly in the area surrounding the mouth of the Onilahy river. It may be also present in the south west in the Mahafaly plateau.
Altitude renge: 10-150 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: C. montagnacii grows among bushes (sometimes dense). It is a heliophile species but seems to enjoy the clear shadow of bushes. Its flexible, but short and fragile stems crawl or climb on the surrounding bushes. The soil is white, very permeable and covered by many angular limestones fragment and boulders. The ground is extremely hot and dry and the plants have adapted to these extreme conditions developing succulent leaves or swollen water-storing rootstocks (caudexes) that serve as water reservoirs in times of drought, and condensing the life cycle in the very short rainy season. The vegetative cycle takes place very quickly, from November to March. Flowering is modest, but rapid and homogeneous, and terminate towards the end of January. Unlike the foliage that grows best in shelter the flowers develop better in the light. The fruits, which ripe in February, are edible and sweet. The species propagate by means of seeds. It has a restricted range, at least some populations are under pressure from habitat loss.
- Cyphostemma montagnacii Desc.
Description: Cyphostemma montagnacii is a perennial, herbaceous plant with short, vines starting from the tip of the tuberous rootstock (caudex) and climbing over the surrounding vegetation, to which they cling with the aid of their tendrils. The rootstock serves as a water reservoir in times of drought. C. montagnacii closely remember Cyphostemma elephantopus. These two species have in common the succulence of leaves, a deep underground tuber and a very short vegetative cycle.
Tuberous rootstock (Caudex): Solitary, large, beet-like (inverted conical), truncated or disk shaped at apex up 15-20(-30) cm in diameter and to 50-60 cm deep. The bark is leathery, blackish, the pulp is succulent, and watery. The tuber is firmly wedged in the ground, and is very difficult to extract.
Stems: The annual stems (vines) are herbaceous, liane-like, flexible, succulent, but short (up to 1.5 metres long) and fragile, greyish, at first hairy, glabrous and smooth as they older; only a very small length of the main stems becomes woody each year.
Leaves: Sessile, succulent, 3-foliate. Leaflets petiolate (petiolule 5-10 m long), usually wedge-shaped 12-22 mm long, 3-8 mm wide, distinctly lobed in the upper part. Stipules 2-4 mm long, 1.5-2.5 mm wide.
Inflorescences: Multi-branched cymes with several flowers, peduncle, hairy, bracts oval, about 0.4 mm long.
Flowers: Greenish yellow and airless. Pedicels 3-5 mm long. Calyx very short, 2.5 mm in diameter thickened at base pale greyish-green. Anthers 1.2 mm long.
Fruit: Oblong, globular 18-22 mm long, 14-16 mm wide, black.
Seeds: Large-sized (15-17 mm long, 9-11 mm wide), kidney-shaped corky.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) B. Descoings “Cyphostemma (Vitacées) nouveaux de Madagascar” in: Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France, La Société, 109: 274 1962 (1963)
2) “TRAFFIC Recommendations on the Proposals to Amend the CITES Appendices
at the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties” Doha, Qatar 13–25 March 2010 Downloaded from www.traffic.org/cop15
3) Cyphostemma montagnacii in Bihrmann's CAUDICIFORMS Downloaded from http://www.bihrmann.com/caudiciforms/subs/cyp-mon-sub.asp
4) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
Cyphostemma montagnacii Photo by: © Plantemania
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