Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jabily, AKA Elephant Tree

Operculicarya decaryi

An unusual plant with tuberous roots is Operculicarya decaryi, or Jabily. It is frequently used as a bonsai subject, but I didn’t purchase it for that purpose. I just liked the shape of plant and its tiny green leaves. The twisted, exposed roots were a bonus. As it matures, it won’t be as attractive as it is now.

This Madagascar plant is a bit rare, and expensive. You won’t find it in garden centers. In its native habitat or in mild climates, it can grow into a tree with a trunk three feet in diameter, and it can reach 30 feet high. In late winter, it will get tiny dark red flowers near the ends of the branches. Right now, it is fully leafed out with dark green leaves, but the leaves will turn a dark red-brown when cold weather arrives.

If there is any danger of frost, I will bring it in the house for the duration. It can be deciduous at temperatures in the high twenties. Although it is considered frost sensitive, collectors report that it can take some frost and not be damaged other than the loss of leaves, which will readily grow back as soon as the weather warms.

I will soon have to start pruning the stems back as the main stem is now over a foot long. If left alone, the stems will twist, gnarl, and stay quite thin. I should have cut the stems back months ago, but I’ve always had a problem pruning stuff.


Barbara said...

I wonder how and why this lovely plant got the name of "elephant tree". Funny! But there is nothing that could be compared with this "big" least I didn't find anything. (besides my favourite animal!).

RUTH said...

I thought of your blog a lot when I saw the plants in the Dry zone at Wisley. What an unusual "tree" this is.

Julie said...

Prune away!!! I think my Mom is like you in this regard...she hates to prune...and I am the to hack away!!! Ha ha ha!!! (Literally, at times)

No Rain said...

One of the reasons the tree is called elephant tree is the exposed gnarly roots on mature trees resemble the lumpy appearance of elephant parts.
Did you see a lot of the cacti and succulents I've featured?
I pruned it today! Hated to do it--but knew it had to be done. Not fun for me. It's like cutting off a healthy limb.

kate said...

That is an intriguing tree ... I alsoo like the name. I have the same problem with pruning.