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Publication #ENH252

Beaucarnea recurvata: Ponytail1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This upright, fine-textured evergreen tree grows very slowly up to 30 feet in height but rarely exceeds 10 feet. A distinctive plant, ponytail palm has a greatly swollen trunk base (sometimes to seven feet across) that narrowly tapers and eventually branches in older specimens. The light green leaves, up to five feet long and 3/4 of an inch wide, are produced in tufts clustered at the tips of branches. The cascading nature of the leaves gives much the appearance of a pony's tail. Creamy yellow flowers are quite showy as they are held above the foliage in spring or summer for several weeks. The tree will occasionally flower two or even three times a year. This plant makes a great conversation piece, whether grown as a specimen, a container plant, near patios, or placed in rock gardens. It can also be used as a houseplant.

Figure 1. 

Mature Beaucarnea recurvata: Ponytail


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Beaucarnea recurvata
Pronunciation: boe-KAR-nee-uh reck-er-VAY-tuh
Common name(s): Ponytail
Family: Agavacea
USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: indoors; specimen; container or planter; deck or patio
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 12 to 18 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: palm, upright/erect
Crown density: open
Growth rate: slow
Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: spiral
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 18 to 36 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray, yellow
Flower characteristics: very showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: elongated
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: gray
Current year twig thickness: very thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Ponytail palm grows in full sun or partial shade on a wide range of soils. Soil must have good drainage as plants have a tendency to develop root rot on poorly drained soils. Plants moved from indoors to permanent outside locations should be gradually exposed to the increase in light and temperature change.

Propagation is by seed, which usually must be imported from Mexico.

Pests

Chewing insects may disfigure the leaves.

Diseases

Root rots can kill plants grown on wet soils.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH252, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.