The genus Adenium is usually seen as comprising 5 distinct, but closely related species, but it has also at times been treated as one species (Adenium obesum) with six subspecies[
Adenium arabicum Balf.f.
Adenium arboreum Ehrenb.
Adenium coetaneum Stapf
Adenium honghel Lindl.
Adenium micranthum Stapf
Adenium socotranum Vierh.
Adenium somalense Balf.f.
Adenium speciosum Fenzl
Adenium tricholepis Chiov.
Cameraria obesa (Forssk.) Spreng.
Nerium obesum Forssk.
Common Name: Desert Rose
Plant growing in native habitat
Photograph by: James Joel
Desert rose is a succulent, deciduous shrub or small tree, usually growing up to 4 metres tall, occasionally to 6 metres. The stem base becomes strongly thickened with age and sometimes spreads over rocks, it can become 1 metre or more in diameter, The plant sometimes has a fleshy taproot[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use, mainly as a medicine. A very popular ornamental plant, valued particularly for its flowers and unusual form, it is cultivated throughout the world as a pot plant and outdoors in the tropics.
The root sap or sometimes the wood or stem latex contains a powerful heart toxin and is used to prepare arrow poison. The poison is popular for hunting large game as it kills quickly and the hunted animal dies within 2 km from the place where it was shot[
A decoction of the bark and leaves is widely used as fish poison[
Preparations from the plant are used as an ordeal poison and for criminal purposes[
Tropical Africa - semi-arid areas from Mauritania and Senegal to Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania; Arabian Peninsula.
Rocky or sandy soils in savannah, dry bushland or woodland, and wooded grassland at elevations up to 2,100 metres[
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A plant of the arid and semi-arid tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 2,100 metres. To grow well, it prefers maximum temperatures that often exceed 30°c; the branch tips are damaged at temperatures below 5°c; and the plant cannot be grown in the open when temperatures are regularly close to 0°c[
]. Although it originates from dry areas, it tolerates high air humidity well, which explains its popularity in countries such as Thailand and the Philippines[
Requires a sunny position. Requires a very well-drained soil[
]. Plants can endure a drought or cold-induced dormancy of several months as occurs in the natural habitat[
Plants grown from seed may flower within 1 year[
Under favourable conditions some clones can flower for 2 - 4 months, or even nearly year-round. Flowering stops when temperatures exceed 38°c[
Desert rose is an important plant in traditional African medicine. Research has shown the presence of some 30 cardiotoxic glycosides, which act in a similar way as digitalis from foxgloves (Digitalis spp.) In low doses, digitalis is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart rhythm problems (atrial arrhythmias), but in high doses it leads to systolic heart failure and death[
The ethanol extract of the roots has been shown to slow down the growth of Bacillus subtilis, but has not shown activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus or Candida albida[
Extracts from the root have shown a cytotoxic effect against several carcinoma cell lines[
The aqueous stem bark extract is a potential acaricide as it shows high toxicity on all stages of development of the ticks Amblyomma spp. And Boophilus spp[
A decoction from the roots, alone or in combination with other plants, is used externally to treat venereal diseases; a root or bark extract is used as a bath or lotion to treat skin diseases and to kill lice[
]. A root decoction as nose drops is prescribed for rhinitis[
Latex is applied to decaying teeth and septic wounds[
]. Latex is rubbed on the head against lice[
Powdered stems are applied to kill skin parasites of camels and cattle[
The bark is chewed as an abortifacient[
Desert rose is sometimes planted as a live fence[
The wood is sometimes used as fuel[
Seed - the viability of seed from cultivated plants is sometimes poor because of pollination problems. Viable seed should be planted in a sandy free-draining medium after removal of the hairy tufts and treatment with a fungicide. It germinates within a week at temperatures of about 30°c. Seedlings are ready for transplanting within 1 month when they have developed 6 leaves[
Tip-cuttings dipped in a rooting hormone, planted in a coarse rooting medium and well watered are most successful, and form swollen stem bases like seed-grown plants[
]. Cuttings must dry for a week, before getting planted[
Selected plants and valuable hybrids are often propagated by cleft grafting as this process is more reliable than propagation by cuttings, although it requires more skill[
Grafting onto oleander (Nerium oleander L.) is possible and leads to rich flowering[
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