Donkey Fig/Mestoklema tuberosum
This species comes from a very arid part of Africa and at certain times of the year, it is the only green vegetation around. Donkeys are fond of eating this fleshy plant, hence the common name.
This member of the Livingstone Daisy (Mesembryanthemum) family is one of the very few that have a thick, swollen trunk, which makes them look like a natural bonsai. Mestoklema tuberosum has fairly slender branches and small, cylindrical leaves; it produces a large number of small, Daisy-like flowers during Summer and Autumn. These are mostly in pretty shades of cream, violet or orange. The roots are quite swollen, and gradually a swollen trunk begins to develop after three or four years. The branches become quite straggly and should be cut back from time to time to keep the plant neat and tidy.
Branches cut in Spring or Summer are ideal for use as. Pot them into a gritty , keep them damp, and the pieces should begin to root fairly easily.
This plant is tolerant of low temperatures (about 5°C/40°F) if kept fairly dry. It will benefit from good ventilation, but no draughts.
This plant requires a bright situation at all times and will grow best in a South-facing window.
The compost should be watered well during the Summer and then allowed to dry before watering again. During the Autumn and Winter, keep fairly dry, giving only enough water to prevent the plant from shrivelling badly. This plant will soon rot if kept wet at low temperatures.
The Donkey Fig comes from very arid areas and will benefit from a dry atmosphere.
This succulent should be fed regularly every 1-2 weeks during the Spring and Summer, using afertilizer or a tomato feed diluted to about half strength.
The Donkey Fig, like mostand , will do best in a well-drained compost containing about one third horticultural grit.
This species makes an ideal subject to train as a bonsai. Plants should be grown-on in an 8cm (3-1/2in) pot, and the foliage should be trimmed every three months to keep it neat. When the trunk starts to thicken, take the Donkey Fig out of its pot to expose the large, swollen roots. It can then be repotted in a shallow bonsai dish to give an instant bonsai. By constantly pruning during the Summer, you can shape the plant into many different styles.
Unlike many subjects, it will not need lots of water as a bonsai and will survive happily through periods of absence. This is an interesting plant that can soon make a good Bonsai.