Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

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.


main info

Courses at Kew

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Why People Need Plants

image of book cover

A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.