Homalocladium platycladum

Thanks once more to Eric La Fountaine for today’s photograph and write-up (wish I had traveled to tropical places during my break, but perhaps you’ll see a photograph from my holiday trip on Friday or Saturday). Eric writes:

The centipede or tapeworm plant (the second name seems more accurate, but the first is much more appealing) is native to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. However, it is cultivated as an ornamental in other tropical areas. The plant grows to a metre tall, although the one in this photograph exceeded that height. The green segments shown in this image are known as phylloclades; these are short flattened photosynthetic shoots that function much like leaves. The leaves (one visible on the right) and the flowers are sessile, or borne directly from the stem without a stalk. Small red fruits will follow the flowers.

The Polygonaceae, or buckwheat family, contains 48 genera and approximately 1200 species. Variations in morphology in the family range from trees and shrubs to vines and herbs.

Homalocladium platycladum

17 responses to “Homalocladium platycladum”

  1. Carl Wishner

    Where is the leaf on the right, again?

  2. Norm Jensen

    What an interesting growth form that is.
    The leaf is about midway from top to bottom, and about 1/4 of the way in from the right. Another image of the same species, showing many leaves, is here: http://www.odla.nu/krukvaxter/images/bilder/homalocladium_platycladum.jpg

  3. Quin

    easily started from a slip directly into the ground here in central coastal california – each winter it gets pretty whacked from the cold (Sunset Zone 15) but recovers and grows to 1.5 m during the season and before the next ‘winter incident’…..

  4. annie Morgan

    What a pretty plant – I wonder if it would do nicely inside in a roomful of light.

  5. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    What a delightful, unusual plant. When I first saw the flattened shoots (phylloclades), I thought they were strap-like leaves, with wee flowers growing along their edges. I’d love to grow one of these indoors in Toronto.
    I, too, wondered where the “leaf on the right” was, expecting a grass-like blade — but it must be the little vertical crescent, that’s only about 1.5 cm long on my monitor.

  6. lisa

    It has an oddly appealing, undulating geometry to it doesn’t it – all the segments look equally spaced. On first sight I though this would be a type of epiphytic/forest cactus but no, it’s something much more unusual (to me). It’s hard to believe this plant grows upright, 3 feet tall. It looks much more like a hanging plant. Fascinating.

  7. Monika

    Amazing! Firstly I thought it’s a hydrophyte…

  8. CherriesWalks

    Can you eat the berries or use them for anything?

  9. Sheila

    Fascinating plant. Thank you Eric for showing it to us.

  10. Kathy Driggers

    Is this plant related to a night-blooming cereus?

  11. Laura Hendeson

    Nice pic Uncle Eric, and aptly named. It does remind me of creepy crawlies.

  12. Tanja

    The “berries” (actually achenes surrounded by an accrescent perianth) are rather small, but are juicy and do have a sweet taste. They are bright pink and mature to a rich maroon-burgundy hue and are quite striking. The night-blooming cereus is in the Cactaceae family, and this critter belongs to Polygonaceae.

  13. Paul Warnick

    I have grown this on my desk with light from a north window for at least five years now. I keep it cut back to about a meter by whacking on it a couple of times a year; but, otherwise it has been a remarkably trouble free ‘house’ plant.

  14. Linda T.

    First word out of my mouth was “Wow!” I’m a sucker for unusual and “mutant” plants. Just seeing the alternate symmetry of the flowers, one one this side, the next on that side, and each seemingly “strapped on” by a little thread. Like something from another planet! 🙂

  15. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you eric
    this plant it would seem is also
    called ribbon plant lovely name
    i live florida 9 on the central
    west coast this year this plant
    outside perhaps would not
    have made it
    bon jour we need to send
    daniel to the tropics

  16. Eric in SF

    UC Berkeley Botanical garden has a very large plant of this grown outdoors year round. It gets light frost and looks ratty but healthy.
    It’s *enormous* – at least 6 feet square by 4-5 feet tall.

  17. Anne

    In case anyone finds this again by searching for it, I can attest to it’s ease as a house plant. It even made it all the way across the country (a 6500 mile road trip) in the car! The only problem I’ve had is some powdery mildew on the actual leaves. A potassium bicarbonate fungicide cleared that right up and it’s doing quite well. I did lose a lot of the leaves because I noticed the mildew a bit late. The phylloclades are completely unaffected though and the plant seems quite happy.

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