Pachypodium brevicaule


There are not synonyms for this plant.


Pachypodium brevicaule is native to Madagascar where the plant grows on exposed sandstone in acid substrates and can reach up to 2000 m of altitude.


Pachypodium brevicaule is a shruby caudicform succulent belonging to Apocynaceae botanical family. The plant has a woody thick caudex, brownish-grey, turnip-shape, smooth and can reach up 1 m in diameter and only 10 cm in height. The short stem resembles a stone or a potato and bears many rosette of leaves. The leaves narrow, elliptic, arranged in rosette, dark green, deciduous, pubescent in the bottom side and with a white vein in the upper face. Blooming occurs during the summer and the blossoms are borne at the apex of the stem. The inflorescences are compact cymes made of 2-6 flowers. Flowers are star-shaped, small, bright yellow in color and are borne on short stalks.


The plant has a slow growth rate but it easy to cultivate. For this succulent the best exposure is direct sunlight, so you can place it outdoors but be careful in the hottest days. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. The plant does not like temperatures below 12°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 12 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. Irrigation is proportional to the size of the pot, the position and the season. In Spring and Autumn the plant can be watered with a glass of water every 7-10 days; in summer it can be watered every 3-5 days. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant is used to growing in poor soils, for this reason it does not need abundant fertilization, it is sufficient to fertilize once in spring and once in summer. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 3-4 years. During the repotting operation pay attention to the spines of the plant and any minor wounds: the “milk” of the plant is poisonous and can have a hurtful effect.


Propagation is usually done by seed or by grafting. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°. By grafting you can use Pachypodium gaeyi or Pachypodium lameirei. Make the cut as close to the growing tip as possible, then chose a stock with a diameter similar to that of the scion. After the cut, wash away the latex until it no longer remains. Bring the scion closer to the stock and held together with elastic bands. The plants should be left in an airy and shady place for 7-10 days before the bands are removed.


Also called “palm trees of Madagascar”, the Pachypodiums get their name from the shape of the trunk, wider at the base and it gradually narrowes with the height. Literally, Pachypodium means in fact “big foot” (from the Greek “pachys”, big and “podos”, foot). The specific epithet refers to the short stem of the plant that make it the smallest species in the genus Pachypodium.

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