As The Plant Provocateur I am a sucker for the rare and unusual. The kooky and the crazy. The dreamy and the draizy. Today's model comes to us from the Zululand of South Africa. Once in a great while I'll run into this oddity at a nursery here or a nursery there, but not too often. May I present Dermatobotrys saundersii sometimes referred to as the Tree Jockey. Now where on earth did it get a common name like that? Well, let me tell you when it comes to common plant names people like to get clever. Turns out that this plant in its native habitat can be found growing as an epiphyte in the forks or saddles of decaying tree branches and trunks. I guess someone got the notion that Dermatobotrys saundersii, in these situations, was saddled like a jockey on a horse. The good news for us plant lovers is that it does just as well in a container.
Dermatobotrys saundersii is a member of the Snapdragon family. It produces a caudex-like root base that extends twisting, loopy upright woody stems that can grow up to 2 feet tall. At the ends of these stems lustrous broad leaves with a citrus-like scent create a crown of growth. Underneath the umbrella of glossy greenery, from June through December, a ring of cheerful cherry trumpet-like buds emerge to sound off in a beautiful display of starry blossoms. Blossoming takes place autumn through spring. As the stars fade, grayish-green fig-like fruits form and turn brown as they ripen. They contain many seeds and a supposedly edible sweet pulp. So to grow you're very own Tree Jockey give it part sun/light shade, well-draining soil mix, regular water, and temps above 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 celsius. It is a semi-deciduous plant so it may lose some leaves in the winter months. But even naked, the stems hold their fruit and can continue to bloom. As an added bonus, it totally digs growing indoors. It's a freaky deaky subtropical somethin' and somethin' that needs to be possessed. Possessed I say! If you happen to find one of these extraordinary oddities snap it up and get some subtropical snapdragon sexiness growing on!