Pachypodium cactipes (2008)

PhotoBy Nikki Murdick (June 2008)

Pachypodiums are a group of plants with the identifying characteristic of a body in the form of a caudiciform or pachycaul (thick stem) shape. The various species of Pachypodium are found in Africa and Madagascar.

Pachypodium cactipes, a member of the genus Apocynaceae, was first identified in 1882. This plant has also carried the name P. rosulatum var. rosulatum, although some consider Pachypodium cactipes a separate form that occurs in the southern part of Madagascar.

The general appearance of P. cactipes is a squat pachycaul with a smooth trunk that turns silver gray as it ages. There are weak, reddish, conical spines on the upper half of the plant. After the plant first flowers, it begins to branch until it forms a head of short, thick, tapered branches with groups of leaves sprouting from the tips of the branches.

P. cactipes blooms in the late winter and early spring before the leaves appear. The open-faced canary yellow flowers occur at the end of long stalks.

In nature, the plant grows in full sun in all types of soil and at varying altitudes. P. cactipes requires abundant water during the growing season and some water during the winter if it does not lose its leaves. The plant has a clear gummy sap that is used medicinally and as an adhesive. It has been considered poisonous but not caustic.