Flor del mes: Rosa del desierto

The Desert Rose is an extremely exotic-looking shrub or small tree, but it produces very attractive flowers that might look familiar to people in the Mediterranean.  This is because it belongs to the Dogbane family (Apocynaceae) and is closely related to the Oleander Nerium oleander, which is so common in Mediterranean gardens and roadsides.  

The flowers look like fancier versions of the Oleander’s flower.  Their blooming depends very much on weather conditions and during very dry or cold spells, they may drop their leaves. 

The Desert Rose is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southern Arabia, wherever dry savannah or semi-desert exists, and it is extremely well adapted to drought conditions. 

A notable feature of the plant is its caudex: a very swollen base of the trunk used for water storage.  In some parts of its wide distribution, these caudices can be very impressive: on the Yemeni island of Socotra in particular, Desert Roses develop enormously swollen trunks or pachycauls. 

Desert Roses are popular as bonsais and in Europe, they are almost invariably grown indoors, as they are very sensitive to cold and rain.  However, if grown in a medium with the right amount of drainage, they can be grown outdoors in Gibraltar.