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Beaucarnea recurvata is April's plant of the month.

Common Name:                     Pony Tail Palm, Elephant Foot
Botanical Name:                     Beaucarnea recurvata
Family:                                    Asparagaceae

Habitat and Distribution

Ten of the 12 species are endemic to Mexico, with two other species occurring further south in Central America:
Despite its name it is not a true palm but belongs to the asparagus family. It is popular worldwide as an ornamental plant. There are Beaucarneas registered in Mexico that are believed to be 350 years old. Very tolerant to drought the Beaucarnea grows in rocky soils on cliffs and steep mountains.


It is an evergreen perennial growing to five metres with an expanded caudex (basal stem structure) for storing water. It is extremely slow growing, and the swollen base may reach three metres. The single palm- like stem produces terminal tufts of strap-shaped recurved leaves.
Occasional panicles of small flowers appear after the plant reaches over 10 years of age. The bark is smooth. The genus has separate male and female plants, a phenomenon known botanically as dioecious. The seed capsules on the ponytail palm flower spike is papery capsules. They contain tan seeds the size and shape of peppercorns. Once flowering and fruiting is completed, each ponytail palm flower spike dries up and withers.
Females have pink flowers; male flowers are ivory. Bees and other insects flock to the blooms.

The genus Beaucarnea are critically endangered due to destruction of their habitat and exploitation of seed extraction leading to the deterioration of their genetic diversity.


The leaves are very tough and are used for thatching, making brooms, caskets, coarse hats and mats.
It is said that the trunks are sometimes roasted, and the interior portion eaten.

Where to see the Pony Tail Palm in Centennial Parklands

At the round garden just inside the entrance of Robertson Rd Gates. Map Ref: K7

This information was curated by a team of passionate Centennial Parklands volunteers. Find out more about our volunteer programs here.