March Plant of the Month (2007) Pachypodium namaquanum

A more in-depth look at individual succulent species, a new one is added each week.
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March Plant of the Month (2007) Pachypodium namaquanum

Post by templegatejohn »

Pachypodium namaquanum (Wyley ex Harvey) Welw.


Growth Habits: The plant will eventually grow to a small tree of about ten feet but this will take a number of years to achieve. It is a winter grower, growing from August to November. This slow growing species may reach a height of 6 to 12ft. {2.5 - 4 metres) when mature. The stems are covered with thorns. The thorns that cover the upper half of the stem are long, brown and downward pointing while those near the base of the trunk are short. The top part of the trunk points to the north, it is usually covered with a rosette of crinkly green leaves which fall off in summer.

Scientific name: Pachypodium namaquanum

Common names: Club Foot, Elephant’s trunk. Half-men’s, Half a Man.

Synonym: None that I know of.

Etymology: Pachypodium The Greek word pachys, meaning thick, refers to the base (podium) of the succulent stems. Namaquanum: Of or from the Namaqualand region (South Africa)

Origin: Namibia, South Africa.

The plant will take light shade to full sun, but I prefer mine to have only half a day’s sun, as it does much better for me that way.

Compost: The compost must be open with this plant and my own choice would be a non peat compost, simply because they are difficult to water if allowed to dry out and with the watering regime for this plant that will happen.

Water: Be careful with the watering can. It will take moderate water, but be sure that the plant is growing at the time. This can be difficult to tell for the inexperienced grower, so if in doubt err on the cautious side.

Flower: The tubular flowers (4 cm long) appear in the centre of the leaves in spring (August to October). The tubular flowers have 5 short lobes, the flower is light-green with crimson near the tip. The flowers are velvety in texture.

Fruit: The seed pods look similiar to the seed "horns" of asclepiads.

Min. temp:
In habitat established plants often have to put up with temperatures below freezing but in cultivation I would suggest a temperature around the 50°f. 10°c. to be on the safe side.

This is not the easiest plant in the world to keep successfully and in my time I have seen far more hanging to life by a thread rather than ones in excellent condition. Perhaps the growth period fools a lot of people and they are watering the plant when it is resting rather than growing. A classic example of know your own plants.

In habitat the plants are found in desolate areas between 900-2,700ft. {300 - 900 metres} in altitude in the north-western parts of the Northern Cape and southern Namibia.

Comments: If kept in good condition this can be a striking looking plant. I should imagine it is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it is worth keeping as a ‘conversation piece.’ Certainly in England they are not often seen for sale and when they are can be quite expensive.

Photograph by kind permission of David Angus