Friday 25 March 2016

Bottle Tree

Image: bathyporeia
Pachypodium lealii
Desert plants like this are definitely my favourites. In their effort to survive the arid conditions, they end up looking like they long since succumbed to them.

I love the living dead-looking!

Image: Petr Kosina
This particular survivor lives (yes, LIVES! Despite all appearances) in the rocky, arid and semi-desert regions of south-western Angola and neighbouring north-western Namibia in southern Africa.

They're named after the fact that their swollen trunk makes them look a lot like a bottle. And, just like all good bottles in the desert, it's full of water to help the Bottle Tree survive the desert-like conditions that tend to prevail in deserts.

It's also full of poison. This is not the kind of thing you want to find in your water bottles, but it does help the Bottle Tree actually keep its water. Which was their plan all along. That's why it's a Bottle Tree and not just a bottle. The poison is so effective that hunters in the region used to smear the sap on their arrows, just to add that extra 'oomph'. And yet no-one calls it a Poison Dart Tree!

Image: Hans Stieglitz
It all works rather well for the Bottle Tree, and they can grow to some 8 metres (26 ft) in height. Although sometimes they only reach about 1 metre (3 ft) tall. If you want to survive in a desert, you need to be willing to give a little. Or a lot. Like 7 metres (23 ft) of your potential height.

However tall a Bottle Tree grows, it'll be almost entirely branchless until the very top. The leaves grow on slender branches and are jealously defended from herbivores by sharp spines.

Image: Robur.q
Around May to November the leaves will all drop off as the Bottle Tree diverts all its effort into growing surprisingly extravagant flowers.

It's strange to see this thorny hunk of dry, desert-beaten wood emerging from the rocky ground, covered in frilly, white flowers. Then again, who says the dead-looking can't be garlanded with flowers?


TexWisGirl said...

they are neat.

elfinelvin said...

Amazing how really brilliant plants can be!

Susan said...

people are pretty smart... is there really no way they've found to make that handy poison water supply drinkable?

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: They sure are!

@elfinelvin: Yeah, there are some really amazing plants out there! It's easy to forget.

@Susan A: I think the water and poison are all mixed into the sap. It's probably easier to just bring some water along.

Rumtopf said...

I wish to hug them, carefully.

Joseph JG said...

VERY carefully!

Susan said...

Greetings - how do I contact you? The contact form does not appear to be working (???). I just wanted to suggest a monstrosity which you may not have covered already...

Joseph JG said...

I should sort out a proper contact form thing. I have an email address there, though.

I also have that famous fringehead!


Susan said...

That's great! I should've realized that you had to be way ahead of me in sniffing out the best monsters!

I have been trying to read the entire site back to day one (and I do mean read it all, because your prose is really completely delightful)... life is just too short.

Monstrum longa, vita breve.

Susan said...

The other day I was reading about a mammalian monster with sarcastic TEETH. Long extinct, alas.

Joseph JG said...

The entire site? Wow, that's quite an undertaking at this point. I hope it turns out to be worth your while and I'm happy that you even imagine it could be!

It's a shame the sarcastic teeth and the sarcastic mouth could never meet