THE MESMERIZING CAUDICIFORMS

 

 

What are they ?

 

Caudiciform plants are those that create a swollen base or trunk – which is called a caudex.  Usually above ground, they can also develop under the soil level.  The trunk can be smooth, bumpy or even have a turtle back arrangement!

 

Many caudiciform plants are also classified as pachycauls.  Derived from Greek – pachy, which means thick, and Latin – caulis, or stem. Pachycauls usually have very few branches in proportion to their thick trunks.

Caudex stem

 

Why are they like this ?

 

Their distinctive structure is a survival mechanism. During the short rainy season, the enlarged stems store water.  It then uses this water over the long dry season. Hence, they evolved in areas of distinct seasonal rain.

 

Water storing wood tissue

 

Where do they come from ?

 

Basically, they evolved everywhere on the planet where the environment is subject to infrequent rains.  Most commercially grown caudiciforms come from the desert regions of Africa or Mexico. The Baobab tree is from Madagascar.

 

 

Can one use them Indoors ?

 

Some of the caudiciforms are used as indoor plants.  Because of where they evolved most want a hot, dry, brightly lit or sunny spot to grow in.  A few like the common ponytail (Beaucarnea recurvata) have the ability to adapt to artificial lighting.

 

Most of the time you will have to put in a sunny window.  Otherwise they may become weak, or not grow properly nor bloom. Here are samples of some that are commercially available – nursery grown.

 

Adenium obesum (desert rose)

 

Albuca genus (pregnant onion)

 

Jatropha podagrica (Buddhas belly)

 

 

Can I put one Outdoors ? (in warm climates only !)

 

Adansonia grandidieri (baobab tree)

Great story !

In the fall of 2018, one of Madagascar’s most sacred baobabs cleaved and crumbled. The ancient giant was estimated to be about 1,400 years old.  It had offered food, fuel, and fiber to the region before its 90 foot around trunk collapsed. Known as Tsitakakoike – the tree where one cannot hear the cry from the other side.  This particular baobab was entwined with local lore.  It was thought to house the ancestral spirits of nearby Masikoro people.

 

Brachychiton rupestris (bottle tree)

 

Cussonia paniculata (cabbage tree)

 

Dioscorea elephantipes(elephants foot)

 

Fockea edulis (hottentot bread)

 

 

Pseudobombax ellipticum (shaving brush tree)

 

 

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Article written by our Staff Horticulturist, Peter B Morris, BSc, MSc, MBA

All photographs used with permission @SHUTTERSTOCK