We were trekking through the dry forests of the coastal region of eastern South Africa in southern Zululand. It was quiet and peaceful in the morning air and as we were hiking down a sandy slope the lead person of our group stopped on the slope to look at something and we all wound up standing in front of a large burrow dug into the hillside. Well, this is one of the first things one is told not to do in Africa is to even walk in front of a burrow. Before the more experienced members could shout a warning for the group to move, a trio of Warthog piglets went shrieking out of the burrow rocketing past us and sending everyone tumbling down the sand slope in a mass of confusion. After we stopped laughing we carried on and found this incredible plant growing epiphytically in the forks of branches of living and dead trees. It is a really unusual epiphytic semi-deciduous sub-shrub with a heavy woody rhizome from which emerges multiple upright stems 2 to 3 feet tall each of which bear attractive rubbery, 3 inch long shallowly toothed deep green leaves that are entirely flushed with purplish-red when they first emerge at their tips. These leaves are subtended by clusters encircling the stems of beautiful coral-red arching trumpet shaped flowers from early winter to late spring and sometimes into summer.
The flowers are followed by smooth oval dark green turning brown fruit that are filled with small seeds in a sweet pulp. The fruit is considered edible and the locals who compare them to a fig. Curiously the USDA's poisonous plant list also includes this plant. Hum… Plant in part sun or bright shade in a well drained humus rich soil and irrigate regularly spring through fall. This plant makes a great container, hanging basket, or mounted subject, or can be used epiphytically by planting in the crotch of a tree. It is noted that plants can live for many years in large pots without the need of repotting. Our stock plant has remained outdoors and is briefly deciduous in cold winters but plants remain evergreen in warm years or when grown indoors. This is truly a rare plant to cultivation and an incredible conversation piece. Plants sold in 4” pots.