Pachycormus (2013)

By Eric Driskill (May 2013)

The genus name for Pachycormus refers to “pachy,” meaning thick, and “kormos,” meaning stump – referring to the thick caudiciform trunk. Seed-grown plants often form a nice trunk, both in habitat and in pots.

Hermann Jacobsen’s book Lexicon of Succulent Plants lists one species of Pachycormus, discolor, with four varieties. This monotypic genus is in the cashew family.

Pachycormus discolor is endemic to the Baja California peninsula. The plants are also called elephant trees, torote blanco and copalquin. This is not to be confused with Bursera microphylla, which is also called the elephant tree.

Pachycormus trees grow up to 20 feet tall. One of the lures of these succulent trees is the exfoliating, white, papery bark, under which is a nice blue-green photosynthetic inner bark. The leaves are dark green, pinnately compound, pubescent and drought deciduous. Flowers, cream with pink centers to red, appear in May and can bloom until September.

The plants grow best in high light and moderate heat. They are usually winter growers, going dormant during the hottest months of summer. Don’t let the roots dry out completely at any point. Let growth patterns guide your watering. Growing pachycormus hard, along with pruning, will result in thicker trunks.

Anyone who grows succulent trees with the intention of bonsai presentation should consider Pachycormus. The leaves are simiar to operculicarya, another choice bonsai subject that is a bit touchier to grow. The plants are very slow-growing, which may justify the extra money it will take to buy an older, bigger specimen.