Pachypodium lealii subs. Saundersii


Pachypodium saundersii


P. saundersii is native to KwaZulu-Natal, Mozambique, Northern Provinces, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In its habitat the plant grows in woodland and in stony places in full sun.


P. saundersii is a shruby caudicform succulent belonging to Apocynaceae botanical family. The plant can reach up to 2 m in height and up 1 m in diameter. The plant has a woody, thick, partially subterranean caudex that can reach 1 m in diameter. The caudex is spherical, smooth, dark grey in color. The stem branches from the base. Branches are long and armed with sharp spines. Leaves and blossom are borne at the top of the spines. Branches reaches 1 m in length. Leaves are obovate, bright green, deciduous, undulate, arranged in tufts. Blooming occurs from early spring to late summer. Flowers are bell-shaped, large, showy, light pink to purple and yellow stamens. Flower are borne at the top of the branches in tufts. Seeds are numerous, ovate in outline and compressed.


This is a rare plant, easy to cultivate and drought resistant. The best sun-exposure is full sunlight, and the plant does not like temperatures below 10 °C so it needs to be placed indoors. 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. Remember to use perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly from March to September: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow to the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specifics fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. 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. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.


Propagation can be done by seed or by cutting. By cutting you can use the offsets during the spring. Cut an offset and then let it dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase success of propagation you can cut two or more offsets at the same time. For cuttings is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with high level of humidity.


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 name “Saundersii” derives from Sir Charles James Saunders, an English colonial administrator and botanist who described about 400 species of plants.

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