Alluaudia procera ‘Madagascar Octillo’

Alluadia procera is an unusual and whimsical succulent plant with vertical stems.

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The stems on the Alluadia procera are covered with pairs of small rounded leaves and sharp gray spines arranged in neat and orderly rows in channels along the plant’s stems.

In their native Madagascar, this wood is used for building and charcoal.

 The Alluadia procera was first described by Drake del Castillo  while in Paris in the year  1903.

This wonderful succulent is scarcely branched or occasionally columnar, a small succulent tree with a very upright habit that looks a lot like a “crown of thorns”.

The Alluadia procera plant can grow rather tall, 1,5-3 m high indoors and up to 60 foot tall in its native haunts but cultivated plant rarely surpass the 26 feet tall.  The stem in this succulent is almost unbranched, thin and corrugated tube-like.

It is covered with regularly spaced sharp, conical, tapering thorns and leaves arranged in parallel tracts spiraling up the trunk. The stem is a beautiful bone white color and lignifies as the plant ages and will reach a diameter of 6 inches at the base.

The leaves are small, oval or rounded, green succulent that bud right off the trunk. The leaves clothe the stems during the warm wet season, but will often drop during any lengthy dry periods or with the onset of winter.

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This plant flowers yellowish white crowded clusters at the end of the branches. Flowers will be produced in mature specimens.

Alluaudia procera, or Madagascar Ocotillo in many ways it resembles the American Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) with red flowers.

Both have small rounded leaves and grayish trunks with a lot of spines, but that is where the similarities and in fact they belong to two different families.

This is a perfect example of convergent evolution, unrelated plants adapting similar shapes and survival strategies in response to the same environmental conditions.

Cultivation:Alluaudia procera needs full sun or high interior lighting with a very well-drained soil well-drained circulating air. Plants are watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again.

If fertilizer is used, it should be diluted to ¼ (one-quarter) the recommended rate on the label. 

It is a frost tender species that must be protected in the greenhouse over the winter but established plants should tolerate temperatures as low as 0° C (Avoid any frost!).

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If grown in the home environment, the ideal temperatures should run between 68° to 70° F. During the winter months, the plant will drop all of its leaves and no water should be given during this period. Not freely branching.

Once this plant is established in its new pot, it should be cut back to 7-10 cm in height to encourage branching. The cutting removed can be rooted easily, and the process repeated. 

If pruned and kept somewhat pot bound, they can be maintained at a manageable size, depending on what “manageable size” means to you. If planted in the landscape, however, It will often drop all its leaves when it decides to take a rest. When this happens, cut down on the watering until the leaves start to appear again. 

Alluadia procera is often grown in containers as a houseplant in a bright location and can be kept in a pot for an extended period. It has a similar form to Ocotillo and works well as a specimen.

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Plant in larger xeriscape plantings, rock and cactus gardens. The plant is covered with sharp spines and should be located away from pedestrian traffic.It is both fire and deer resistant.This plant can be propagated from stem cuttings and seed. The plant is dioecious so male and female plants are needed to set seed. Plants establish easily after transplantation.

This is a terrific plant for those in warmer, drier areas who want something ‘different’ looking- maybe even a bit weird. Nothing is quite like it for adding interest to gardens, especially when plants are grown in multiples and allowed to create a mini-forest. It has some tough, sharp spines, but because of its very upright trunks, this is rarely a problem while walking around. 

Special notes:

  • Alluadia procera is an unusual perennial, succulent, columnar plant with many vertical stems. Each is covered with alternating pairs of small rounded leaves and sharp gray spines arranged in channels along the plant’s stems.
  • Older plants do flower with inconspicuous flowers arranged in thyrses (similar in structure to grape flowers) at the branch tips. Vertical stems of Alluadia procera can reach 50 feet in their native habitat but are more likely to be half that size in California.
  • Despite its common name, Alluadia procera is not related to the red-blooming Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) from the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico, but instead, it is related to Portulacaria afra.
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Alluaudia is an endangered plant that is part of a rich and biologically diverse ecosystem called the Madagascar Spiny Forests. Several Lemur species feed on Alluadia.

It is endangered largely from habitat loss, but it is also collected and used as a living fence and as a source of charcoal in its native habitat. in any garden or landscape, anywhere in the country. The fascinating plants, usually have fleshy leaves, plump stems, and roots that are used for storing water in dry seasons. You will find them n a wide array of shapes, sizes, foliage colors, flowers, and often unique frills and bristles. Thanks to Mother Nature and evolution, many can tolerate hard freezes. Click To Read More

Old-hand gardeners know for best success indoor cactus and succulent plants require a certain amount of neglect.

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