Decaryia madagascariensis (2009)

PhotoBy Eric Driskill (May 2009)

Decaryia madagascariensis belongs in the family Didereaceae, and as the name suggests, originates in southern Madagascar in the spiny forest area. D. madagascariensis is also known as the zigzag or geometry plant, and is one of the most unusual xeric plants. It is also the only species in the genus and dioecious (male and female trees).

This very slow-growing shrub is most interesting in form, doing best in more heat. It is considered a spiny shrub or small tree up to 30 feet tall. The limbs are succulent, growing in a zigzag pattern with two spines on the outside, where the stem changes direction. Plants can be grown in light shade to full sun. Growth may remain more compact and branch more readily if grown “hard” and exposed to more full sun. Flowers are pale yellow.

D. madagascariensis can be grown from seed if you have both a male and a female plant. Though you may be able to propagate it by cuttings, they are rather difficult. Plants can also be grafted on alluaudias.

You can add one to your collection without having to give up a lot of space. The plant is possibly one of the best conversation starters money can buy. However, you will need to eventually stage and grow it in a rather tall pot to accommodate the branches that tend to hang down or trim them to keep the growth in check.