Balanophora fungosa, Balanophora

Balanophora fungosa

Family: Balanophoraceae
Small plant 2-5 ftSemi-shadeShadeModerate waterRed, crimson, vinous flowers

Its common names include True or Chinese Vampire Plant or Chinese Liverwort.

The Balanophora fungosa, also called True or Chinese Vampire Plant and Chinese Liverwort, is an unexpected, mysterious bloom found in the woods. It is a species originating in the tropical regions of Asia and is suited for USDA Zone 9-11. Above ground, the appearance of the plant is quite odd and mushroom-like, but the underground tuberous growths are a sight to behold.

Being an epiparasitic shrub growing to a maximum of 2 to 5 feet, Balanophora fungosa prefers areas with partial shade to semi-shade and a moderate water supply. It is most prized for its bright red or crimson flowers, sometimes likened to a vinous hue. The plant's petals are rust colored or yellow and bloom during the summer months, granting a unique beauty for any garden.

Despite being used as an ornamental item, Balanophora fungosa does require plenty of care. It can tolerate light frosts, though in colder regions, it should be grown in a pot and brought indoors or placed in a greenhouse. When the threat of frost sets in, the pot should be filled with a thick layer of mulch for insulation, and the container kept moist but not soggy. It is also best to fertilize the soil every week, using a high-potassium and a phosphorus-rich fertilizer formulation once a month. Direct sunlight must also be avoided to protect the plant from any possible harm.

Balanophora fungosa is an intriguing specimen, as much for its fragrant blooms as for its otherworldly roots. With proper care, this extraordinary plant can be enjoyed all summer long, adding a touch of myth and charm to any given space.

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