Pachypodium namaquanum

This has to be one of my favourite plants and one that has graced my collection since 1984/5. I can be very precise about the date as the following story will testify.

Way way back in 1984 I was very fortunate to travel to South Africa with my good friends Derek Tribble, Alan Hart and Hazel Hodgson. One of the objectives of the trip for me was to see Pachypodium namaquanum in their natural environment and Derek, knowing how keen I was to see this plant, made my dream come true when we travelled to the Richtersveld. While I was photographing the plant and closely inspecting it, (it was in full flower), I spotted two seeds stuck in its crown. These happened to fall into an envelope, (it was naughty and I cannot condone collecting plants or seed without permission), but I assumed that as the seed is notoriously short-lived it would already be dead anyway.

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Fig. 1 Pachypodium namaquanum

On my return to the UK I sowed the seed and, to my surprise, one germinated and thus begun my love affair with this plant.

Pachypodium namaquanum are winter growers and must be grown in a very similar way to cacti but in different seasons. My plant comes into growth (new leaves) about August and needs regular watering and feeding until it stops growing at the end of April/early May. During the growing season buds develop slowly and then, as the leaves slowly die, the flowers put on a spurt and grow, finally opening in May. They are not the most spectacular flowers but to me they are magical and every year memories of my plant’s mum come flooding back. During the summer I give it very light waterings to stop it dehydrating too much.

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Fig. 2 Detail of the top of the plant

They are generally easy plants to grow and will live in a cool greenhouse (mine runs at a minimum of 5°C) in a sunny position. I have had another seedling flower while in a 2 3/4” pot. Why not try this wonderful plant in your own collections – it really brightens up the winter months.

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Fig. 3 The flowers

Ian Thwaites

No part of this article or the accompanying pictures may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS & the Author 2017.

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