Dorstenia – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Dorstenia
Family Moraceae

This is a small genus of herbaceous and woody plants native to Africa and South America, with a single species in Asia. A few are grown as ornamentals in warm climates and greenhouses.

The mulberry family, Moraceae, is a large family with many members throughout the world’s tropics. It includes herbaceous perennials, shrubs, vines and trees. A few members of this family are cold hardy enough to grow as far north as zone 8b. Osage orange (Maclura) and mulberry (Morus) may be the best known plants to gardeners north of zone 9.  Breadfruit and jackfruit (Artocarpus) are well-known tropical trees that produce edible fruits.

Dorstenia elata


Dorstenia elata

(no English common name)

This is a herbaceous plant with a subterranean stem and shiny leaves about nine to ten inches long. It is native to Brazil. Flowers are embedded in a dish-shaped disk that botanists call a receptacle. At maturity, the seeds are ejected several feet from the parent. As a result, it can be somewhat weedy in greenhouses and subtropical gardens. Remove the receptacles before the fruits mature to prevent its spread. It grows in moist, partly shady to shady site. Most reports state that it is cold hardy in zone 10.

This plant may be found in specialty catalogs. It is easily propagated by seeds. It is listed sometimes as Congo fig although it is not from Africa and it is not a fig.

This plant did not survive winter lows in the upper teens F in my upper zone 9a garden. It grows very well outdoors for a friend who lives about thirty miles south in zone 9a where winter lows are more likely to be in the mid- to upper 20’s F. Dorstenia contrajerva is a related plant with pubescent, lobed leaves that is reported to have escaped cultivation in one area of northeast Florida.


Dorstenia elata flowers in a receptacle