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Scientific name: Pachypodium lealii  

Family: Apocynaceae


Common Names:Bottle tree (Eng.); Bottelboom (Afr.)

Dicoma capensis

Pachypodium lealii

Description: Growing to a height of 1 to 8 m, with a swollen trunk and covered in slender spines, the narrow branches of this shrub or tree spread sparsely from the top of the trunk. Its sap is highly toxic.

Leaves are oblong, covered with short hairs on both surfaces and are arranged in spiral clusters towards the tips of the plant. At flowering time, the leaves drop off, and long, pointed buds at the ends of the leafless branches open into attractive flowers.

Flowers sweet-smelling, white flushed with purple on the undersides.

Flowering time: flowers from May to November, with a peak in August in the middle of the dry winter.

Fruits :are conspicuous, borne in V-shaped pairs of cylindrical follicles that split down one side to shed numerous seeds, each tufted at one end with a plume of hair that aids dispersal.

Ecology: Occurs in arid or semi-arid environments, amongst dry scrubby vegetation on rocky hillsides or outcrops.

Roots: are fleshy and tapering at both sides (fusiform), succulent, up to 10 mm in diameter.

Origin: Angola, Botswana, Namibia

Plant Uses: Traditional hunters in northern Namibia have used the highly toxic sap of the bottle tree as an arrow poison, and have carved drinking bowls from the wood to poison unwitting bird.

Propagation: P. lealii can be grafted onto the rootstock of a more robust species such as P. lamerei to avoid roots rotting off.


Court, D. 2000. Succulent flora of southern Africa, revised edn. Balkema, Rotterdam.
Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora
Publications Trust, Durban. Van Wyk, B.-E., Van Heerden, F. & Van Oudtshoorn, B. 2002. Poisonous plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria. Accessed on April 4, 2019