Baobab-Begonia, Maple-leaved begonia
Begonia dregei plant with flowers
Begonia dregei is a South African endemic occurring naturally from
East London to Durban.
Begonia dregei is rare occurring in forests, on rocky, mossy cliffs and steep banks, from the coast to 1 219 m. According to the IUCN listing Begonia dregei is endangered.
Begonia dregei is a spectacular evergreen shade loving perennial that makes an excellent indoor or outdoor pot plant.
Begonia dregei caudex
Begonia dregei is a tuberous, fleshy perennial that grows with a swollen stem base known as a caudex. The caudex is usually mostly out of the soil. The stems grow from the caudex. During long dry periods Begonia dregei can loose all of their foliage or even die down to the caudex to recover quickly after the first rain or watering.
The leaves are generally small (50–80 x 20–35 mm), asymmetrical, lobed often with large white spots when young and widely toothed. The 40–90 mm long leaf stalks are green or reddish, there is however a very large variation in leaf size and form from population to population.
The leaves look much like those of the Maple Tree Acer spps. which gives it one of it´s common names the Maple Leaf Begonia.
The far more spectacular male flower of Begonia dregei
The flowers of Begonia dregei are fragrant and produce a delightful show. In cultivation Begonia dregei flowers for almost the entire year producing small white to pinkish flowers with a bright yellow centre.
The male and female flowers occur separately on the same plant which are inter fertile so if one only has one plant it will still produce large amounts of fertile seed. The male flowers can be recognised because they have two petals and the female flowers have five.
The far less spectacular female flower of Begonia dregei
I have grown Begonia dregei for many years having found the first specimen growing in the Kloof area about 25 years ago. The plants that I am now growing were propagated from a single specimen that I found growing at scary cliffs at Mount Moreland in December 2007
Over the years I have found Begonia dregei to be very easy to grow and quick-growing from seed or cuttings.
Seed is best sown in early spring or summer in a moist well drained medium, plant sparingly because the seed is very fine and germinates readily coming up like hairs on a dogs back. The fine seed from my plants is distributed by the wind and seedlings pop up on a regular basis in the pots of other plants that I am growing in particular my orchid plants where they germinate well on little or no soil. Cuttings are far easier to grow for the average gardener they do better in the warmer months but can be grown just about any time of year by the more experienced grower.
Begonia dregei seed capsules the one on the right has already split and has released much of the seed
Begonia dregei grows well in light shade but will also grow in deep shade as well as where they get. a moderate amount of sun for part of the day. Plants grown under brighter conditions flower far more profusely.
I have found Begonia dregei rewarding and easy to grow as a pot plant where I have usually grown them in hanging pots together with my orchids they will also grow well in the ground
The large caudex makes Begonia dregei look a lot like a miniature baobab tree Adansonia digitata.
Begonia dregei is mostly pollinated by bees.
The caudices of Begonia dregei are used for traditional medicine.
Begonia dregei is another one of our floral gems that is very well known, treasured and grown in very large numbers abroad but is hardly known or grown here in South Africa which is rather disgusting of us Eurocentric South Africans for us not to treasure and be proud of that which is South African.