Preservation and Cultivation of the Pachypodium Species
Pachypodiums are from the Apocynaceae Family or what is commonly called the Periwinkle family. Some of the more commonly known plants from this family are Periwinkles, Desert Rose, Plumeria and Oleander. Pacyhpodiums occur on the African Continent and on the island of Madagascar. There are 4 species of African Pachypodiums: Succulentum, Bispinosum, Namaquanum and Lealii. There is also one subspecies called the Lealii Saundersii. All occur in the southern part of the continent mainly in South Africa. All other Pachypodiums are Madagascan species. Pachypodium means 'thick foot'. It is often mistaken for a cactus, but it is a succulent. All cactus are succulents but not all succulents are cactus. The spiny varieties of pachypodiums are poisonous, minor irritation occurs at the point where the the needles enter the skin, a short period of numbness may also occur in the area where pricked.
Since pachypodiums are from tropical climates they are not adapted to cooler climates where occasional frost might occur. They tend to like warm sunny climates and will thrive if given plenty of water. They are deciduos and will lose all their leaves if the temperature drops to 40 degrees or below just as trees do in the fall. This is not a sign that the plant is dying as many folks tend to fear. The leaves may also fall if left dry for too long. This is a defense mechanism that helps the plant conserve water during dry seasons. It is best to water these plants just when the soil is drying out. The roots are tender and can be lost if they are left to dry out too long. Over watering is a common problem in the fall and winter. The roots will also be lost if the soil is too wet for an extended period of time. Finding the right balance takes a bit of practice. Cut back on the water as the temperatures drop in the Fall, as the plant is entering a rest period and simply does not need as much water.
Starting plants from seed is fairly easy if you can find fresh seeds. Plant as early as possible and maintain a warm soil temperature to ensure the best germination rates. Growth rates vary by species, Lamerii, Geayi, Rutenbergianum and the African species all tend to grow the fastest at up to 12 inches a year. While the Rosulatums and Densiflorum grow slower and Brevicaule the slowest.
Once your Pachypodium reaches flowering age you can expect to be rewarded with the nicest of sights and scents. Should you be lucky enough to have the flowers set seed you will see two horn like pods that will contain hundreds of seeds.
With the massive deforestation of Madagascar that has taken place over the last century, it seems imperative to act to broadly cultivate the species in order for it to survive. Several species are considered endangered in their native habitat.