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A rare sight: The Ponytail Palm in bloom

The Ponytail Palm’s bloom in the Conservatory.

By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director

Blooming in the Conservatory now is a mature specimen of Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata.  As best as we can tell, this is the first time we have observed flower spikes on our specimen.  There are reports that it can take as much as thirty years before indoor specimens bloom.

The common name Ponytail Palm refers to how the foliage appears in tufts, much like a “ponytail.” Another common name is Elephant’s Foot, which describes the plant’s swollen base. This base serves as a storage reservoir for water.

Beaucarneas are dieoecious, like hollies, meaning there are distinctly male and female plants. Flower color varies by sex, as male plants have cream colored flowers, while female plants have pink flowers. Our plant will not produce any seeds after flowering, because we only have a male specimen.

Beaucarneas are native to eastern Mexico and are members of the Asparagus family, Asparagaceae. They are sensitive to cold temperatures and can only be grown in locations in Hardiness Zones 9 and higher.

Come to the Gardens for a visit and enjoy the rare sight of this unusual plant in bloom. You will find it to the right as you enter the Conservatory at the back of the Rose Garden.