The desert rose is a beautiful and unique plant native to the deserts of North Africa. It has many different names: Moroccan oleander, Algerian iris, Egyptian jasmine, and Arabian tulip. It got its name “Desert Rose” (a reference to its pink color) because it grows exclusively in dry regions. This succulent blooms beautiful flowers in different shades of pink and has a succulent stem that is a beauty to behold. Apart from this, there are some amazing facts about the plant you didn’t know that will surprise you.
So what are the amazing facts about the desert rose you didn’t know? Although the Adenium Obesum is the commonly known type of the plant, it has various other species. The plant has a medicinal value and has been used for many years in various countries to cure certain illnesses. Its sap is poisonous and can have severe effects on humans and animals. What’s more, it is used in the smudging ritual for cleansing, has a lifespan of up to five hundred years, and is traded internationally.
You probably know and admire the desert rose for its beautiful flowers, leaves, and stem. Apart from its beauty, there are various other things you need to know about the succulent. In this article, you will learn various facts about the plant you didn’t know that will amaze you.
1. It has Medicinal Value
All the parts of the desert rose have medicinal value and are used as traditional medicine in different countries. In Oman, the stem, roots, flowers, and leaves of the plant are crushed and blended to make a mixture used to treat sexually transmitted diseases. They also use the skin of the stem and the roots to make a lotion used in treating skin diseases and killing lice. The plant produces white latex that is used in treating septic wounds and tooth decay.
The desert rose has been used over the years in African countries to cure various diseases. In Somalia, the different parts of the plant are used in treating nose infections. The plant has toxic white latex used in killing pesticides. In Kenya, the latex is used in killing lice. Kenyans also make a powder from the plant’s stem that they then apply on livestock to kill parasites. The sap is used as an abortion agent to terminate unwanted pregnancies in humans and animals.
Traditional medicine men in Nigeria use different parts of the desert rose to cure various illnesses. This includes headache, joint and muscle pains, and various skin diseases. In the medical world, some properties of the plant are used in some drugs formulation. Research is ongoing to identify if it can cure some types of cancers.
2. It is Poisonous
You love the desert rose for its beautiful flowers, leaves, and stem, but did you know it has a dangerous toxins? The sap in its roots and latex in the stem contain toxins. If ingested and the toxin reaches the heart, it can cause heart failure and, in severe cases, death in humans and animals. However, in African countries, the poison is used in hunting activities. It is applied in the sharp edges of hunting arrows used in hunting large animals.
The poison kills quickly, and once shot by a poisoned arrow, an animal drops dead within two kilometers from where it was shot. The poison can be used alone or in combination with other poisonous concoctions. The skin of the stem and leaves are blended to make a mixture used in poisoning fish. The poison is mainly used for hunting purposes in Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Senegal. The poison is also used for criminal purposes in Senegal and Mauritania, such as poisoning people.
3. Used in Cleansing Ritual
In various Native American homes, the smudging ritual is done to cleanse the home spiritually. It is a meditative routine done to dismiss negative energy, improve moods, and purify the home. So, what does the desert rose have to do with the smudging ritual? The plant is used during the ritual as a meditation element and to signify mind clarity. Its presence during the ritual is believed to create a calm effect and make a meditator relaxed by eliminating evil thoughts. As a person conducts the ritual, they declare their intentions focusing on the desert rose to invite positive energy in their being and home.
4. Comes in Multiple Varieties
Most probably, you are familiar with Adenium Obesum, the most commonly known type of the desert rose. What you may not know is there are other types of the plant that most people don’t know exist. These are the Adenium oleifolium, Adenium socotranum, Adenium somalense, and Adenium swazicum. The different types have different flower colors, stem width, leaves sizes, and growth heights.
Oleifolium is commonly found in Botswana and South Africa. It features a large stem with narrow, olive-green leaves. Its flowers can either be pink, salmon, or red and are tubular-shaped.
The socotranum is commonly found in Socotra, between Yemen and Somalia. It is the biggest in the family, growing up to 15 feet in length and its flowers are larger than those of the other types. Its trunk grows to a diameter of eight feet. The plant has no leaves, and its flowers are pink.
Somalense is mostly found in Eastern Africa. They have twisted branches and narrow leaves. They grow up to 12 feet in length, and their trunks are usually twisted. Their flowers are trumpet-shaped and can either be white, crimson red or pink.
Swazicum is the smallest of all the desert roses, growing no more than two feet in length. They are found in South Africa and Swaziland, and they have showy reddish-pink and pink flowers.
5. It has a Long Lifespan
The desert rose has a long life span of up to 500 years. It boasts notable characteristics that enable it to live through the decades. For instance, its stem has a swollen base that keeps on swelling with the passing of years and can reach up to two meters in diameter. The stem stores essential nutrients that it keeps feeding the other parts of the plant through different weather conditions.
To identify the age of a desert rose, measure the diameter of the stem. This is a slow-growing plant, and every millimeter represents one year. It is a seasonal succulent that sheds leaves when not in season. The plant, interestingly, gets enough nutrients even when other plants start dying due to unbearable weather conditions.
6. It is Traded Internationally
By now, you already know the various benefits of the desert rose. You are probably considering planting it in your home for a beautiful look, or medicinal value, or even for your hunting escapades. However, you are wondering where you can get the plant since you don’t live close to a desert. You need not worry as the plant is available for sale, probably in a market near you.
The desert rose is traded globally for its various properties, but mostly for ornamental purposes. While it is popular for its medicinal and toxic nature in Africa, it is popular in the West for its aesthetic value. For both reasons, it is exported and imported in large quantities thanks to its ever increasing demand. All you need is to walk into a market near you or search the internet for where you can buy the plants in your area.
How to Grow the Desert Rose at Home Successfully
The desert rose is widely planted for its beautiful flowers, leaves, and succulent stem. Some people grow it around their compounds as a fence, and in Tanzania, it is used in marking grave positions. Its stem and branches produce wood that some people use as firewood. For whatever reason you plant it, take precautions when handling it to avoid getting into contact with its toxic sap by wearing protective clothing. When growing it, always ensure members of your household and pets are safe from its effects.
The desert rose grows well in dry areas. Ensure it gets enough sunlight and avoid giving it too much water. Always ensure the soil is completely dry before watering and avoid pouring water directly on the plant. It can be propagated from seeds or branches and stem cuttings. The stems of plants grown from cuttings may not be as succulent as those produced from seeds.
It is no wonder that something as beautiful and hardy as the desert rose can be found in a place like this. The plant has withstood many hardships to grow where it does, but now you know how to care for one so they will continue living on. With its amazing facts, it is easy to see why so many people want a desert rose of their own. Make sure your Desert Rose gets enough water, fertilizer, sunlight and protection from pests. With these tips in mind, we hope you enjoy caring for your own little piece of the Sahara Desert at home or office.