In Eastern Brazil there is a member of the Fig family called Dorstenia bahiensis, a herb, growing in the Amazon jungle. Though there are many unusual and rare plants located in the world’s richest biodiversity basin Dorstenia bahiensis stands as one of the most unique. At 6 to 12 inches in height with a gray fungus-like flower topping off the receptacle it almost seems to glow. Yet on closer inspection the flower actually looks like a flattened fig instead of fungus with its glossy green leaves also resembling that of the fig tree. But this flower just like its native region is full of surprises.
In the rainy, humid, and dense Amazon forest the soil is kept highly moist though fragile due to the plethora of plants inhabiting it. It is this soil dorstenia bahiensis thrives in with consistent blooming throughout the year. Reproduction seeds shoot out of the flower head and germinate when the right conditions take hold. It thrives in a neutral soil type with it not being too acid or too alkaline. It requires at least partial shade with full shade being ideal. In the rainforest dorstenia bahiensis grows on the ground so the canopy blocks out most of the sunlight.
It can be grown in a greenhouse or as a houseplant, however, its rather difficult to care for and conditions have to be kept exactly right. You would need to keep the temperature high and soil constantly moist. The plant also cannot tolerate being in any kind of wind, and this is probably due to growing deep in the forest where there is no wind exposure. And its important to keep it in the proper amount of shade. Shade makes it so that the leaves retain their lush green vibrancy.
The stem is very short and mostly grows underground yet has a small root system just like its close relative the Dorstenia gigas, which is a African native succulent. For that matter the dorstenia bahiensis is a succulent and a herb. They are both members of the Brazilian Moraceae family as well as the tropical Dorstenia family. As for the plant’s nutritional properties and usage in traditional medicine it has high levels of antioxidant activity. It was used in traditional dishes for flavoring. And is still used by indigenous tribes today.
Like many plants and animals of the Amazon the Dorstenia bahiensis is endangered due to excessive logging. Its rapidly losing its natural habitat as the soil degenerates and canopy disappears. But there is hope in the conservation efforts of the last thirty years. Hope that this rare and exotic plant will be around to amaze future generations.