Ceropegia - Group of enticing flowers from the milkweed family

Written By Amol Kokane on Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 2:58 PM

The quest for Ceropegia started some 2 years back when I started focusing more on macro photography and especially on wild flowers. That was the time when I first saw a picture of one of the Ceropegia species in a book. Looking at the unusual & interesting appearance of the flower, I immediately developed a mad desire to photograph it. As I started gathering more material on Ceropegias, I realized that I am not the only one who had fallen for the dazzling beauty of this family of flowers and decided to join the bigger group of people who share love for Ceropegias.

The Ceropegia flowers have a tubular corolla with 5 petals mostly fused at the tips, forming an umbrella-like or lantern like appearance, giving rise to a common name as Lantern Flower or कंदिलपुष्प in Marathi. As the flowers are fused at several points, it forms a cage like structure, in which flies are momentarily trapped, accomplishing pollination as they move trying to escape from the cage.

In India, majority of the species are distributed in peninsular region. I feel glad (and at the same time lucky) that I live in Maharashtra, as the highest diversity of Ceropegia is found here with 25 species (and the most of them are endemic). These are mostly found along hill slopes or at low to high elevation lateritic plateaus mainly during Monsoon.

It was last year when I photographed my first Ceropegia species in the wild. Since then I managed to capture following Ceropegia species:

1. Vinca-leaved Ceropegia (Ceropegia vincifolia)

This is the species because of which I fall in love with Ceropegias. It is a climber with 3-8 cm long flowers. Flower tube has purple stripes. The fused tips has purple color in the upper half, where as lower half has pale green color.

Vinca-leaved Ceropegia (Ceropegia vincifolia) @ Sinhgad

2. Peacock Ceropegia (Ceropegia oculata)

It is twinning herb and found in areas with high rainfall in the Western Ghats. The flower-tube is thin but broadened upwards. It pinkish beige in color with some darker spots on it. The fused tips has emerald green color.

Peacock Ceropegia (Ceropegia oculata) @ Sinhgad

3. Maccani Ceropegia (Ceropegia maccannii)

This is a 3-4 feet tall perennial herb. Flowers are small. Flowers are white to purplish grey with creamy white to yellow fused tips.

Maccani Ceropegia (Ceropegia maccannii) @ Sinhgad

Top view of C. maccannii @ Sinhgad

4. Medium Ceropegia (Ceropegia media)

It is is found at higher elevations in the Western Ghats. It is a small twinning climber. Flowers are 2-3 cm long. The tube enlarges at the top, to a purple mouth.

Medium Ceropegia (Ceropegia media) @ Sinhgad

Top view of C. media @ Sinhgad

5. Jaini Ceropegia (Ceropegia jainii)

It is is found at higher elevations in the Western Ghats. It is a small twinning climber. Flowers are 2-3 cm long. The tube enlarges at the top, to a purple mouth.

Jaini Ceropegia (Ceropegia jainii) @ Kaas Plateau

6. Sahyadri Ceropegia (Ceropegia sahyadrica)

It is an erect herb. It has greenish-white flowers with slightly curved tubes. As the name suggests, it is endemic to Sahyadri hills.

Sahyadri Ceropegia (Ceropegia sahyadrica) @ Sinhgad

Top view of C. sahyadrica @ Sinhgad

7. Bulbous Ceropegia (Ceropegia bulbosa)

This is a vine which is widely distributed throughout India. The flowers are very small and pale gray, becoming greyish-purple towards the mouth. The tubers and leaves of this species are eaten as a vegetable.

Bulbous Ceropegia (Ceropegia bulbosa) @ Vetal Tekdi

8. Hairy Ceropegia (Ceropegia hirsuta)

It is a climber with around 5 cm long flowers. The flower-tube is light beige colored and brown or purple upwards. The petals are very broad and yellowish green colored. The tubers of this species are eaten as a vegetable.

Bulbous Ceropegia (Ceropegia hirsuta) @ Pingori

Top view of C. hirsuta @ Pingori

While photographing these Ceropegia species, I have not seen any bird nectaring on these plants. At the same time, Ceropegias being from milkweed family, I thought many butterflies would be using these as host plants for their caterpillars. But I have not seen any caterpillars either. Not really sure why; I will leave it for experts to comment.

This season, I planned many trips for photographing wild flowers but most of the plans were futile as the downpour restricted the execution of my plans. Even then I managed to capture some good clicks of a few wild flowers whenever I got a kick at the can.

Still a long way to go to reach that magic number, 25. Hopefully, next season I will add more Ceropegia flowers to my tally and with that the season will prove to be more "flower"ful.


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