Pachypodium (2005)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (May 2005)

Sunrise on a large island. Three nocturnal tree dwellers, their fur glossy black and trimmed in white, their eyes bright yellow, rise up to face the sun. Welcome to Madagascar.

Madagascar is an enigma 250 miles off the coast of Africa. A land long isolated and a place much changed by man. Lemurs and tenrecs, rainforests and desert scrub – life is captivating in this land. You will find many unique succulent plants in Madagascar: aloes, kalanchoes, euphorbias, baobobs and pachypodiums.

The pachypodiums of Madagascar vary widely. Many are covered in thorns; some have long, green, deciduous foliage. The flowers are ususlaly white, red or yellow.

An interesting example is Pachypodium geayi, which grows in the arid western coastal area. It has beautiful silver-grey leaves and white flowers. Another is P. baronii v. winsori, which has a spherical caudex, many spines and red flowers.

Then there is the very popular P. lamerei. Growing in the dry forest areas, it is sometimes called the Madagascar Palm Tree. It is a tall, branching, thorny species with a water-storing caudex. It has long, thin green leaves, and most healthy plants bloom after they reach a height of 4 feet. The flowers are white. There is also a beautiful cristate form.

Pachypodiums are robust plants. They like a sunny, warm location and can tolerate dry indoor conditions. Water them well when they have foliage, but do not water during the leafless winter dormancy. They thrive in rich soil, but beware of spider mites, to which they are quite susceptible.

The sun is setting. A spiny tenrec goes on his way. Goodbye from Madagascar.