What’s in a name – Xerophyta

Last week, we enjoyed our first flower on our four year old patch of Xerophyta viscosa, growing in our crevice garden. As the Latin root indicates, Xerophyta is the poster child for xerophytes (plants adapted to arid climates). Xerophyta is a genus of 45 species in the Velloziaceae family, native primarily to Africa, with one outlier hanging out on the Arabian peninsula.

Xerophyta is a fascinating plant on so many levels. It has the appearance of a hybrid between a bromeliad and an agave with a flower that looks like a rain lily (Zephyranthes). If that’s not weird enough, it’s a poikilochlorophyllous hexaploid. How many of those have you grown? Hexaploids are plants with 6x sets of chromosomes, while poikilochlorophyllous (PDT) plants actually loose their chlorophyll during drought-induced desiccation. These plants are able to sustain the loss of up to 95% of the water in their cells, while shutting down their entire photosynthetic system. That’s in contrast to homoiochlorophyllous plants, which are equally drought tolerant, but retain their chlorophyll. The advantage to Xerophyta is that it doesn’t need to spend energy to maintain any active photosynthesis for up to 10 months. When Xerophyta is exposed to water, chlorophyll is resynthesized.

Xerophyta viscosa

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name – Xerophyta”

  1. This sounds amazing. Do you think it will do OK in Wilmington on the coast in a rock garden?
    Thanks for your thoughts on this. If so, it goes on my wish list. I know exactly where to put it.

    1. Our climate is quite similar to Wilmington, NC, except colder in winter, so as long as you can keep it dry enough, it should be fine there.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 20 MB. You can upload: image, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

Discover more from Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top