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Pachypodium lealii (bottle tree)

The bottle tree owes its name to the unusual swollen shape of its trunk, which acts as a water store. Traditional hunters in northern Namibia have used its highly toxic sap as an arrow poison.
Bottle tree in desert

Pachypodium lealii (Photo: Barbara Curtis)

Species information

Common name: 

bottle tree

Conservation status: 

Listed on Appendix II of CITES.


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

Key Uses: 


Known hazards: 

As with other members of the Apocynaceae family, the sap of this plant is extremely toxic.


Genus: Pachypodium

About this species

The bottle tree owes its name to the unusual swollen shape of its trunk. Like other pachypodiums, this succulent stem of the plant acts as a water store that enables it to tolerate the hot, dry environments in which it grows. Its sap is highly toxic.

There are two subspecies of Pachypodium lealii, found more than 1,000 kilometres apart in Africa. They share many characteristics, but also have a different habit of growth. Due to this and the large distance that separates the two subspecies, most botanists treat Pachypodium lealii subsp. saundersii as a separate species, P. saundersii.


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