February 26, 2024
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The genus Alluaudia is one of the many plants native only to Madagascar. Six varieties exist. I happen to have two of them. One I am pretty sure I have identified correctly, this Alluaudia montagnacii.

This particular Alluaudia has spines longer than its leaves, thought to have evolved this way to protect the plant against being eaten by some particular lemurs, also endemic to Madagascar. Those particular ones are now extinct. But other species of lemurs still living on the island continue to feast on the leaves of Alluaudias.

I have had this plant many years, at least fifteen, and I have cut it back twice after it got so tall it was hard to handle. In its native land of Madagascar, it could grow up to twenty feet tall, and I certainly couldn’t handle one that big! But it has grown back each time I pruned it. You can see here how woody the trunk is, which makes it strong to stand tall as it grows to that twenty feet it is capable of on the island. And they do grow straight up.

My other one I had identified as Alluaudia humbertii, but now I am finding out it may be Alluaudia procera. I have done some research on the two, and I am still not sure which name is the correct label! At any rate, this is what it looks like. I think I bought both my Alluaudias at about the same time, so this one has probably been around about fifteen years, too.

The spines on this one are considerably shorter, and the growth pattern of the branches is considerably different. The branches on this one just go everywhere, and it can grow into a shrub or small tree.  Mine has stayed fairly small, more like a shrub, as I trim on it, too. The leaves on this one sometimes fall off in the winter when it has to come inside,  but come spring it turns green again. This variety is sometimes mistaken for an ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts in the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, but there is a world of difference in them if you take the time to really compare the two plants.

Chances are I won’t get to see these plants in all their glory on the island of Madagascar, but I can enjoy them right here in my own backyard. And they are fun to have in my collection.

What a deal!

Alice’s note: This story first appeared in my blog Cactus are Cool on August 10, 2021. Madagascar is known for its unusual animals, like lemurs, but even more so for its exotic plants, like the Pachypodiums, various Euphorbias, and other succulent plants in my collection, many of which can be found at regular nurseries and big box stores in the spring. But others are not always readily available, like at least one of the Alluaudias I will share with you here.

To see all the pictures in color and read about other cacti and succulent plants, go to www.aliceliles.com.

Alice Liles

Muleshoe Journal Columnist


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