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Arbre bouteille (Beaucarna recurvata) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin
Arbre bouteille (Beaucarna recurvata) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

Elephant’s foot

This Beaucarnea is native to Central America. It is also known as the “elephant’s foot” or “bottle palm” thanks to the base of its flared trunk, which is shaped like a demijohn, and which serves as its water reserve.

Identity Card

Common name
Elephant’s foot, Pony tail palm
Binominal name
Beaucarna recurvata Lem.

Taxonomy

Kingdom
Plantae
Family
Asparagaceae
Synonyms
Nolina recurvata (Lem.) Hemsl.

Detailed Informations

Area of origin
South-Eastern parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala

Etymology

Beaucarnea is the name given by Charles Lemaire in 1861, to honor Jean-Baptiste Beaucarne, a Belgian succulent grower who first collected the species’ flowers. Recurvata means “bent backwards”.

Description and flowering period

This tree-like perennial is said to be a xerophyte (from Greek xeros = dry and phuton = plant), which means that it is adapted to dry environments and can resist extensive periods without any water. Its growth is really slow, yet it can reach up to 8 meters in height. The base of its trunk swells to become bottle-shaped. It constitutes a water reserve. Its bark is grey and cracks with age. Its slender, persistent and shiny ribbon-like leaves with sharp margins can reach over 1 meter long. Its small flowers (1.5cm) bear 6 cream-coloured petals and only appear in mature subjects. The fruits are equally tiny and each bears 1 to 3 round seeds.

Habitat

It has to be planted in extremely draining and rather acidic soil. It enjoys full sun or partial light shade. If used as a house-plant, provide a sunny spot. It tolerates frosts up to -7°c (-3°c for younger subjects) and is extremely drought-resistant.

Uses

Ornamental, grown as a house-plant in temperate areas.

Notes

Since NASA undertook a study in 1980, Beaucarnea recurvata is considered to be an efficient de-polluting agent (it can absorb indoors air pollution caused by chemicals present within our homes – paints, cleaning products, solvents, etc.).

Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN

Arbre bouteille (Beaucarna recurvata) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin
Arbre bouteille (Beaucarna recurvata) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

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