Operculicarya (part 2, O. pachypus)

Here the trunk is only to about 1 m tall and to 50 cm in diameter, conical to irregularly pyramidal, with silver-grey bark.

The branches are hairless, often strongly zig-zag and frequently terminating in a sharp spine; the leaves are 1.5-3.6 cm long with 3-4 (sometimes 5) pairs of leaflets which sometimes touch each other.
The flowers are yellowish-green.

The species has a limited distribution around Toliara, at altitudes from sea level to 500 m, growing in dry thickets on limestone. It is known from only 5 localities and considered endangered. This situation is exacerbated by collection of wild plants.

This species was only described in 1995 and before that time was usually misnamed O. decaryi.


Operculicarya (part 1, O. decaryi)

Operculicarya consists of 5 species of deciduous shrubs or small trees with conical or irregularly swollen trunks, warty-bumpy bark and gnarled branches. The genus is endemic to Madagascar and belongs to the Anacardiaceae, a family of over 800 species mainly occurring in the tropics and subtropics, including well known crop plants such as pistachio, cashew nut and mango.

O.  decaryi is the most widespread of the genus and occurs in dry forests in the southwest and south of the island.
It can be a small shrub or a tree, up to 6 m or more tall, with tuber-like roots*. The trunk may be parallel-sided, bottle-shaped or conical, is up to 1 m in diameter and has silver-grey or dark grey bark.
The twigs are slender, more or less straight to strongly zig-zag; young ones sometimes hairy. The leaves are 2.5-6 cm long with 4-9 (usually 5-7) pairs of leaflets, which do not touch each other.
The bright to dark red flowers are either male or female.

Like O. pachypus, the plants are becoming increasingly rare in the wild and are listed in Appendix II of CITES.

* these can be used for root cuttings.


Pachypodium rutenbergianum (part 1 of 2)

As a young plant, this species looks rather uninteresting, but that changes dramatically over time. Unfortunately not many readers will have the time and the space  needed to grow a specimen to perfection, but in north and west Madagascar, where it is endemic, it is often grown as an ornamental tree (see first picture). It is also a characteristic component of deciduous forests and palm savannas.
These pachycaul trees may become 3-6 m tall, with a swollen stem-base 50-70 cm in diameter and deciduous leaves 16 cm long and 4.5 cm wide.
The inflorescences appear at the branch tips and bear numerous white flowers with
lobes 2-4 cm long and about 2 cm wide.