When is a palm not a palm and a cactus not a
cactus? Answer: When it's a Madagascan Cactus Palm of course!
Tony King, 34 Keats Avenue, Romford, Essex, U.K.
Chamaerops No. 5, published online 23-10-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Pachypodium lameri - Mature plant in Frankfurt
A descriptive common name but very misleading, since
the subject of this article is neither palm nor cactus. Pachypodium
lameri, now a commonly encountered species, was until only a few
years ago a rarity seen in specialist collections of enthusiasts.
It belongs to the family of plants that includes the succulent Adeniums,
and the more familiar Oleander. There are many species of Pachypodium
occurring in arid areas of Africa and Madagascar, that super island
that is home to so many interesting plants. P. lameri originates
from the South and South west of Madagascar in seasonally dry habitats
over a wide variety of soil types. It is thus an adaptable species
ideally suited to modern, centrally heated homes with their hot,
Seed is readily available and germinates rapidly
given bottom heat. Subsequent development is fast and it has been
recorded that under optimum conditions of warmth, moisture and feeding
a 1-1.5m plant with a girth of some 10-15cm can be grown in only
5 years. A plant such as this is ready to flower. The body of the
plant itself is very succulent, widest at about 1/4 of the way up
the stem, which is protected by numerous tubercles each sporting
3 stout spines. Topping this trunk is the crown of leaves. Each
consists of a petiole some 4cm long, which continues to form the
midrib giving an overall leaf length of 2535cm with a width of 25mm,
the tips and margins frequently curving downwards. They are shiny
olive-green in colour and rather thick to the touch. Some varieties
however bear much shorter, 'fatter' leaves some 11cm wide. It is
a somewhat variable species and even variegated and cristate forms
(where growth of stem is made sideways to form many convoluted folds)
are known in cultivation.
In their habitat, plants can reach heights of 8m
with a girth of some 60cm and even in cultivation plants will eventually
reach a considerable height.
Flowers are produced terminally on mature plants
and are borne on stout peduncles. They are pure white in colour
with a yellow throat, rather waxy and very attractive. Again, two
flower types appear to exist, one sweetly scented, the other scentless.
If pollinated a two pronged seed pod is formed, which on maturity
splits to release the small seeds each of which carries a tuft of
white hairs to aid dispersal. After flowering the stem often branches
so that by repeated flowering and branching, a crown of stubby branchlets
Given warm bright conditions year round plants will
continue to grow and remain evergreen. It is more usual though to
overwinter plants at lower temperatures, mm 10c, keeping them dry
whereupon they become deciduous. Growth and thus new flushes of
leaves are encouraged with normal watering and increased warmth
in the spring. During active growth, much water and regular feeding
will be required to keep the plants at their best. High potash,
low nitrogen feeds are best, such as those sold for growing tomatoes.
A gritty compost to allow good drainage and an annual re-potting
will also promote rapid development.
I have seen P. lameri planted outdoors, for example,
at the Jardin Exotique in Monaco and for those living in such favoured
locations it would be worth trying an inexpensive young plant outdoors.
Indeed, although 10c is considered a safe winter minimum, my plants
have in a dormant state survived drops down to 5c.
All in all Madagascan cactus palms are an attractive,
eye-catching, easy and very desirable addition to our exotic collections,
and will appeal to all those with an eye for the unusual.
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10-06-23 - 06:45GMT
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