Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another not a palm

I've always had a rather soft spot for cordylines, or cabbage palms as they are sometimes called. I love their slinky strap-like leaves and architectural shapes. I've used them in planting schemes on many occasions over the years. I recall many years ago when at Reading University we had two huge specimens that had at some stage been cut back and had sprouted a number of shoots which had grown into gnarled branches with tufts of green foliage at various heights. I used to use them for floral decorations at events and my poor staff got quite tired of constatly moving around these unwieldly plants in their big pots of heavy soil. In more recent years I have loved the colourful cultivars such as 'Pink Stripe' although they are very frail an not at all hardy. Out here in Palm Springs, they thrive in the warm winter sunshine but always seem to shrivel in the heat of summer.

Cordyline australis as a street tree in San Francisco
Amongst my recent purchases for my yard, I acquired a plant of Beaucarnea recurvata which at a glance looks very much like a green cordyline, with a main stem and a mop-head of narrow green leaves. It's common name is pony tail palm or elephant's foot, referring to the swollen base of the stem which looks rather like a woody onion. This is a native of Mexico and like cordyline has no relationship to palms, despite its common name. This one belongs to the asparagus family and was discovered in 1870. The swollen base is used for storing water and so it is a much more durable plant for the desert conditions and high heat levels here in the summer. My plant is just a small one but hopefully it will survive better than the cordylines! Just don't muddle it with palms or onions, for that matter!

A mature group of Beaucarnea recurvata
My humble little plant, hopefully feeling at home with a piece of Mexican pottery!

1 comment:

  1. Beaucarnea recurvata en masse like that certainly look stunning! Another cordyline look alike worth looking out for and could do well in your area is Nolina longifolia.