The cyphostemma juttae in front of Paul and Ann Tuskes home in Clairemont. Courtesy San Diego Botanic Garden

A rare, unusual and crazy-looking succulent from South Africa — a Cyphostema juttae — is being donated to the San Diego Botanic Garden by plan enthusiasts Paul and Ann Tuskes.

Known as the “tree grape” or the “Nambian grape,” or droog-my-keel in the Africans language, this particular plant is so heavy, it will require a forklift to lift it from the ground outside of the Tuskes’ home in Clairemont in order to move it to its new, permanent home in Encinitas.

“Cyphostemma juttae is an odd member of the grape family (vitaceae). This species produces a bizarre canopy of serrated, blue-green leaves which emerge each spring from swollen, tree-like trunks that are lined with a papery, peeling bark. Each plant takes on a unique shape with its own ‘personality’ and regularly attains 4 or 5 feet with time. However this specimen may be a record for its size. It is the largest one I have ever seen and is easily 7 feet tall,” says Julian Duval, president and CEO of the botanic garden.

This huge specimen which has outgrown its space being donated by the Tuskes is currently dormant, but will be replanted at the botanic garden in April or May, right before its growing season in the summer months.

The tree grape is named for the large, grape-like bunches of bright-wine colored berries it produces near the end of the summer, making this succulent a true showpiece for plant enthusiasts to grow in containers or in their own private gardens in Southern California.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.