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Operculicarya pachypus


Scientific Name

Operculicarya pachypus Eggli

Scientific Classification

Family: Anacardiaceae
Subfamily: Spondiadoideae
Genus: Operculicarya


Operculicarya pachypus is a small, deciduous, pachycaul tree up to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. It is similar to the much more common Operculicarya decaryi. Compared to O. decaryi, it tends to stay more compact, with the trunk growing in a conical shape and looks like an odd bonsai tree. The branches are glabrous, zig-zagged, and its roots often swell to form unique, contorted, and twisted designs. The green leaves are very tiny, which work proportionally for that "bonsai" look. The flowers are small, yellow-green, and appear in late winter.


USDA hardiness zones 10b to 11b: from 35 °F (+1.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

Operculicarya pachypus

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How to Grow and Care

Elephant Tree is quite a strong plant, and because it is grown in rather harsh conditions, it is a relatively adaptable species. This plant is drought tolerant and does well in full sun in most places. It cannot tolerate freezing conditions.

It does not need an enormous amount of water, but during the growing season, it can enjoy quite a lot of water. Water a bit more regularly if in a container. Its roots will swell underneath the soil, and you will only know that is the case when you repot the plant.

In cold winters, plants will be more or less deciduous but will remain evergreen in warmer locations. Avoid watering during periods of dormancy.

Like most caudiciforms, this plant enjoys a fast-draining potting soil. Avoid peat if possible, and amend the soil with drainage material such as pumice, expanded shale, perlite, or a similar product. See more at How to Grow and Care for an Elephant Tree (Operculicarya decaryi).


Operculicarya pachypus is native to south-western Madagascar.


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