Pachypodium brevicale (2009)

PhotoBy Audrey Altepeter (September 2009)

Pachypodium brevicaule, a plant native to south-central Madagascar, is a member of the family Apocynaceae. This plant was first described by English botanist John Gilbert Baker in 1886-87. It is listed in CITES Appendix II due to habitat loss from illegal collection, farmlands, roads and other development.

P. brevicaule can be considered a “fat” plant with a short trunk 6 inches or less tall and a diameter up to 12 inches. The surface of the plant has a grey, sometimes shiny appearance. The branches or raised bumps can have soft, curved spines on the ends. The oval-shaped, deciduous leaves of this plant are found on the tips of the branches, and are up to 2 inches long. Yellow, tube-shaped flowers appear in this location. Due to its shape, this succulent is a natural bonsai plant.

P. brevicaule prefers full sun to partial shade; full sun will result in better flowering. Although drought-tolerant, this plant requires ample watering during its growing season. The soil should not totally dry out and have a pH between 3.5 and 7. Since it is prone to rotting, it is necessary to have good drainage. Some have grafted P. brevicaule onto P. gaeyi or P. lamairi to reduce the rotting problem. These grafted plants appear to grow fast and flower easily.

P. brevicaule does not mind cold temperatures and can tolerate a minimum average temperature of 40 degrees F. The plants lose leaves during the winter, when watering is reduced. Reproduction occurs with seeds or by cuttings. Seedlings require ample watering.