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Accepted Scientific Name: Beaucarnea recurvata Lem.
Ill. Hort. Misc.: 59 1861.
Origin and Habitat: Garden origin. The natural species comes from Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and San Luis Potosí in south-eastern Mexico.
Beaucarnea recurvata Lem.
Ill. Hort. Misc.: 59 1861.
- Beaucarnea recurvata Lem.
- Dasylirion recurvatum (Lem.) J.F.Macbr.
- Nolina recurvata (Lem.) Hemsl.
- Beaucarnea inermis (S.Watson) Rose
- Dasylirion inerme S.Watson
- Beaucarnea recurvata f. variegata hort.
- Beaucarnea tuberculata (Lem.) Roezl
Description: Also known as the “Pony Tail Palm” or “Bottle Palm” (though it is not a true palm) Beaucarnea recurvata was introduced into cultivation from Mexico about 1845. It is a dioecious, evergreen, succulent tree up to 9 m tall (but rarely more than 1,20 to 2,50 indoors) with a very noticeable swollen base that tapers up to a slender trunk that ends in a head of green and recurving foliage. It is a slow-growing very peculiar species often seen as a houseplant, that people either love or hate.
Variegated form (f. variegata): The plants are identical in shape to the standard species but have leaves striped with cream along the border. There are a few slightly different variegated clones.
Stem: Juvenile plants are single-stemmed with a bulbous base that start thickening at an early seedling stage, forming soon a neat, firm, rounded caudex and the small plants are pulled underground by contractile roots. Mature specimens produces a stout caudex up to 3,60(-4) meters in diameter, most of which is above ground, with one or more branched trunks. The caudex can store water up to 1 year.
Leaves: Strap-like, grass-like, thin, flat narrow, dark green and margined with cream coloured edges, 90-200 cm long and 1-2,5 cm wide that form clumps at the ends of the branches and droop down. The cascading nature of the leaves gives much the appearance of a pony’s tail (hence the common name).
Inflorescence: Large, pyramidal shaped panicles 75-110 cm tall at the branch tips.
Flower: Greenish-white to yellowish-crème coloured with six tepals, but very small and inconspicuous individually (1.5 mm diameter), but on the whole quite showy in the clusters that extend above the leaves;
Blooming season: Flowers occasionally once plants mature (often when it's 20 years old or more) and then in late spring or summer for several weeks. The tree will occasionally flower
two or even three times a year.
Fruit: reddish winged fruit with 2-3 seeds.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Beaucarnea recurvata group
- Beaucarnea recurvata Lem.: is a dioecious succulent tree up to 9 m tall with a swollen base tappering up to a slender trunk that ends in a head of green and recurving foliage. Distribution: south-eastern Mexico.
- Beaucarnea recurvata f. variegata hort.: has dark green leaves margined with cream coloured edges.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Forest & Kim Starr “Beaucarnea recurvata (Pony tail palm, beaucarnea, bottle ponytail)”. Plants of Hawaii. <http://www.starrenvironmental.com>. Web. 27 December 2014
2) Wikipedia contributors. "Beaucarnea recurvata" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 31 Dec. 2014.
3) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons: Monocotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 17 July 2001
4) Irish, Gary "Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide." Timber Press. 2000
Beaucarnea recurvata f. variegata Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
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Cultivation and Propagation: Beaucarnea recurvata are related to False Palms (Yucca species) and need similar care, they are among the easiest “palms” to grow indoors as houseplants, and outdoor as ornamental plants in temperate climate gardens. The plants are very slow growing, so don't expect great growth spurts from year to year and very drought tolerant, give them lots of sun to light shade, well drained soil mix and water deeply but infrequently in summer and fertilize them only once during this period. During the winter months, the plants are watered only enough to keep the foliage from wilting. Over-watering is the most frequent cause of failure when growing Beaucarneas. They are pretty resistant to rotting if all other conditions are good. Indoors they are often grown in shallow pots, with a tuft of strappy green leaves emerging from a bulbous stem that seems to erupt from the soil. It is a plant for people who don't want a lot of work taking care of their plants, as it seems to thrive on neglect , and indoors are manageable in size if kept in a small pot but need a good amount of direct sunlight through the window. The plant is quite hardy and can even stand frost (-7 C).
Maintenance: Remove older leaves that start to become yellow or brown and cut off the spent flower stalk. Leaf tips have a tendency to dry and be brown in the house, so if possible place it outside in the summer.
Pest and disease: Bugs, mealy bugs and mites usually are not a problem with the Beaucarnea, however if they do appear, simply spray the houseplant down with a soapy water mix twice a day until they are gone.
Propagation: Cuttings and seeds. Seed is sown in the spring and will germinate at about 20° C.
Use: It is often used as specimen container plant, near patios, or placed in rock gardens for its irregular outline or silhouette, it is also suitable for growing indoors.
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