The Jewel Alocasias - Spotlight on two little-known Jewels
Peltate - extreme!
Jewel Alocasias often produce young leaves with peltate characteristics, but many of them will grow on to produce mature non-peltate leaves. Alocasia chaii, however, is a true peltate Alocasia in that it continues to produce this type of leaf even when mature enough for blooming (see thumbnail picture at right). The leaves are noticeably thick and the major veins are somewhat depressed into the leaf blade. One can see from the overall look and feel of the plant that it must have affinities to A. villeneuvii. The very light green leaf undersides and the little dark red spots and circles on the undersides of the leaves and on the petioles are almost exactly the same as are seen on A. villeneuvii. In fact this plant is considered to be a member of the same group.
Inflorescences on this plant are similar in size and overall morphology to those on A. rugosa. As a hybridizer, I imagine that seedlings produced from a cross between A. villeneuvii and A. rugosa would show a number of similarities to A. chaii
As is true with other thick-leaved Jewels, the successful grower will keep the soil medium well draining and on the dryish side. These plants crave warmth and will decline rapidly if the temperatures are too cool. A. chaii petioles tend to curve towards the soil, so I recommend growing this one in no larger a pot than 6 inches. This way the leaves won't get pushed into the soil.
Beautiful and Charming
Alocasia venusta is quite different in overall appearance from other Jewels I've discussed (see picture below). The leaves have a stiff feel to them, are unusually long and narrow on thin petioles, and somewhat canoe-shaped. Inflorescences on this plant indicate that a relationship with A. reversa exists, as their morphology shows similarities. This is true even though the two plants are separated, or disjunct, geographically. Leaves on this Venus of the Jewels have dark green upper surfaces, with even darker green around the main vein areas, while the undersides of the leaves are a paler shade of green. You'll also notice that they are somewhat puckered between the main veins. The texture and thickness of these leaves is similar to those on A. reversa.
While A. reversa hails from southwestern Sarawak, these plants are found only in the Niah Caves area of northern Sarawak, and are lithophytic on limestone there. A lithophyte is a plant that grows on rock, so this plant has that tendency. Such a habitat indicates a need for above-average root aeration, freedom from constant wetness, and a soil medium on the alkaline side.
A. venusta appreciates bright light and moderate fertilization during the growing period, which for places other than the tropics is going to be summertime.
The going gets even tougher . . .
Many other Jewels can be found among the genus Alocasia, such as Alocasia micholitziana, one variety of which is known as 'Frydek'. This plant has bold white main veins on a velvety looking broad arrowhead shaped leaf. The type specimen of this species has much narrower leaves and slightly mottled petioles; it is rather difficult to find and even more so to grow. Another interesting one is Alocasia bullata, the "King of Pucker", having leaves that are so bullate as to be almost bubbled. The leaves are a darker shiny green and the plant is a small grower, but extremely finicky. I've never been fortunate enough to grow one to blooming maturity.
The links above for 'Frydek' and A. bullata take you to Agristarts pages; you can see many of the Jewels on the Agristarts main Alocasia page. Even more Jewels can be viewed at the Malesiana Tropicals Alocasia page. Their selection changes from season to season.
Some desirable species of Alocasia grow much larger than the Jewel types, but have the same or similar cultural requirements. For example, the plant with the largest undivided leaf in the plant kingdom, A. robusta, is at least as finicky as the most finicky Jewels, and maybe even more so. Another group of three Alocasias that may actually be varieties of one species, A. zebrina, A. tigrina, and A. reticulata, are also as demanding of special care as the Jewels. These are much larger growers than the little gems I've shown you, but as with all Jewels, you can still lose them at a frighteningly fast and irreversible pace if you are not attentive to their needs.
Photo credit: LariAnn Garner, Aroidia Research
Discussion about this article: