Beaucarnea recurvata

Beaucarnea recurvata

Beaucarnea recurvata is an evergreen caudiciform shrub or tree that is native to semi-desert areas of southeastern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. It can grow up to 30′ tall, with a truck 15′ across. As a houseplant is tends to be much smaller in size, almost a bonsai because its growth is restricted by pot size.

It gets the common name ‘Elephant’s foot’ because of its large, water-retaining base (caudex) from which a trunk-like stem rises. It is possible for side shoots to come from the caudex and possiblt the main truck may branch. Mature plants have 3′ long leaves that form clumps at the ends of the branches and droop down, thus the specific epithet.

Mature plants may bloom in late spring or summer. The small cream-colored flowers are held in a 2′ tall pyramidal-shaped inflorescence at the branch tips and are sometimes followed by reddish winged fruit.

Pronunciation: bow-KAR-nee-uh rek-er-VAY-tuh

Species Meaning: Bent backwards

Beaucarnea recurvata is native to Mexico.

Cultivation Notes

Plant in full sun outdoors and good light indoors, water deeply and infrequently. It prefers warm, arid temperatures, above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is said that they languish below 50 degrees, so we will have to see how it likes our winter, when 50 degrees is typically the high for the day.

The large clump has been divided into 6 separate plants. One has been planted out int he yard, two given away and the remainder will be protected over winter.

Propagation Notes

Propagate by division. The clump came apart fairly easily once some of the dried roots were cut.

It appears that each clump only had one or two active growing roots and many dead roots whose function was to hold the plant in place only. Some of the caudexes were bare of all roots, but that appears to be OK. Planted n free draining soil mix, and in some cases the caudex was lifted so that half of it was exposed.

In Our Garden

Plant ID: P20132

Found in Compost Heap,

One was planted in the tropical section close to the main path and road. The rest remained in pots. They all died in the 22F during the winter of 2022. I have been waiting to see if any of them resprout, but the caudex have been going soft, meaning I think there is little hope of them having survived.

We acquired this plant from Bear Valley Nursery.

Family: Asparagaceae

Genus: Beaucarnea

Species: recurvata

Commonly known as: Elephant's foot, Ponytail palm, Bottle palm

Height: >15ft

Spread: 5ft to 10ft

Growth Habit:
Sun Needs:
Full Sun
Soil Type:
Zn9b - down to 25F

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