Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Club Foot, Elephant's Trunk, Half-Man's, Halfmen
Pachypodium namaquanum

Family: Apocynaceae (a-pos-ih-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Pachypodium (pak-uh-PO-dee-um) (Info)
Species: namaquanum (na-MAWK-wan-um) (Info)

11 members have or want this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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By palmbob
Thumbnail #1 of Pachypodium namaquanum by palmbob

By palmbob
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By Happenstance
Thumbnail #3 of Pachypodium namaquanum by Happenstance

By RWhiz
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By Xenomorf
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By lupinelover
Thumbnail #6 of Pachypodium namaquanum by lupinelover

By RWhiz
Thumbnail #7 of Pachypodium namaquanum by RWhiz

There are a total of 36 photos.
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8 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Kell On Feb 9, 2015, Kell from Northern California, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Per Jan Emming owner of the Destination:Forever Ranch and Gardens, a 40 acre desert botanical garden and sustainable living homestead in the Arizona desert with a nursery:

The nation of South Africa has somewhere near 40% of all succulent plant species on earth, which is an extraordinarily large proportion for a relatively limited geographical land area, globally speaking. Diversity of this group of plants, plus numerous others, is rather remarkable for this country as well as those that adjoin it such as Mozambique and Namibia. I was fortunate to be able to travel there in September 2009 and witness a small selection of the overall biological wealth in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces.

One of my absolutely favorite days in South Africa in 2009 was the one we drove the interior dirt tracks of the Northern Cape Province between the Richtersveld region and Klein Pella, located on the Orange River on the border with Namibia. Our group was in search of Pachypodium namaquanum, the so-called "halfmens". This is the Afrikaans term for semi-human, and it refers to the unusually humanoid appearance of these highly charismatic plants.
The apex of P. namaquanum typically tilts at about a 25 to 30 degree angle to the north, which is the sunny direction in the southern hemisphere. This quirky feature is likely to be an evolutionary response that allows the heads to do maximum photosynthesis during short and cool days of winter, when the leaves appear. However legends from the Nama people of the region say that these plants were once ancient tribe members who were driven southwards into inhospitably dry, rocky terrain by conflicts to the north. The gods took pity upon these refugees and turned them into halfmens, and gave them a view of their former homelands, always looking longingly back to where they once lived.

Pachypodium namaquanum is a rather unique looking succulent in the Plumera family (Apocynaceae). Shown above in my photos growing upon white quartz outcroppings, the plant's range includes northwestern South Africa and southwestern Namibia.

The vast, dry, rocky reaches of Namaqualand and the Richtersveld in northwestern South Africa and southwestern Namibia are home to Pachypodium namaquanum, also known as halfmens, which is Afrikaans for semi-human.

It is common to see the swollen, bottle-shaped bases of Pachypodium namaquanum tightly wedged into extremely narrow rock cracks. Clearly these rocky clefts trap the windblown seeds and provide an extra measure of protection for germinating seedlings. The impermeable rock layers must also shed the sparse rainfall into the cracks, where it will soak in more deeply and remain for longer than in more open situations. This wedging-into-cracks growth habit can be seen in many succulents worldwide.

Pachypodium namaquanum can reach heights of over 8 feet tall (2.5 meters). Leaves are borne only atop the tips of individual stems during the cooler winter months, when some rain does fall across their native region.

Pachypodium namaquanum flowers in late winter and early spring in South Africa. These were in prime bloom in mid-September 2009. The crinkled leaves are unique to this species in the genus, as are the massed flowers in a central bouquet.

While most Pachpodium namaquanum are single-stemmed, damage to the growth points can result in mulitple heads forming.

This 12th image of mine shows Pachypodium namaquanum in typical quartizitc sandstone habitat. Plants tend to grow on cooler and moister south-facing slopes, but tilt their heads to the north for maximum sun exposure in winter when the leaves are present. They are leafless in the long, dry summer months.

The photo with 6 stems stood about 7 feet (2 meters) tall. Plants with multiple heads set many more flowers and produce much more seed, so it's a bit odd that they don't all eventually do this. But most remain single for most of their lives.

Positive cyrd On Oct 24, 2011, cyrd from wanganui
New Zealand wrote:

Wow! I wonder if this interesting genus is available in N.Z? Might tempt me away from frilly echeverias. My Doublette is currently stunning but I should try something different. May be rather too cool here however.

Positive boomboer On Mar 17, 2011, boomboer from Cape Town
South Africa wrote:

Pachypodium namaquanum is called "Halfmens" in Afrikaans which means Half-man. The name stems from the folklore of an African tribe called the Nama. Some of the tribe once occupied better land in what is now Southern Namibia. A bloody conflict drove them into the Richtersveld which is a rocky desert wasteland. They kept looking northwards, towards their homeland and the gods took pity on them, turning them into plants with heads forever turned to the north.
It only grows in the Richtersveld region in South Africa and Southern Namibia in an arid, rocky environment with little to no rainfall and some cool Atlantic fogs providing moisture. This is why the frilly head of leaves is handy in trapping moisture from the fog - which runs down the smooth trunk into the soil. The bark is brilliant white to reflect the intense light and heat (up to 120 F in summer) in its natural region. It is thorny and posionous to ward off snacking insects and baboons.
The plants grow only on Southern slopes (Southern Hemisphere) since they are cooler and the leafy heads point northwards to get maximum sunlight similar to those of the Chilean cactus, Copiapoa cinerea.
They appreciate a mineral rich well-draining soil since this is typical of their native rocky slopes. Bone meal in the soil and a half strength kelp-based fertilizer also goes down well. Small plants germinate and grow in between rocks and dry grassy tufts - so if you have a small plant - do not stick it in an overexposed full-sun position - rather place it in a hot, sunny location between larger pots so that it gets some direct sun, but not all day long. This is true for hotter areas - if you live in a cooler place - more sun is needed. Only water regularly when it is in leaf.
It can grow quickly (in succulent terms) if conditions are perfect, but anything from a foot in trunk length upwards earns you bragging rights.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Aug 9, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

A staple now at C&S shows. Mine has been through it all. Left outside in a pot a couple of winters.It survived.Overwatered a spring or two, and the roots rotted.It survived. Grown outside for a few summers it didnt grow very much.
Now,I have it on the windowsill of a large southwestern facing window. This is where it is now putting on some size. In contrast to watering in our cool summers outdoors,in the blazing heat next to the window it enjoys much summer water and a little amount of fertilizer. A plant with little more than leaves in the late 90's,it's now has a trunk of 8". Even with the best care i doubt it would much more than 14" in 8 or 9 years time.Keeping it alive is easy,getting to grow large takes exacting conditions!

Positive thistlesifter On Dec 16, 2005, thistlesifter from Vista, CA wrote:

Plant grows in full sun on south-facing white wall in coastal San Diego. CA.

Inconsistent with typical information available on greenhouse grown p. namaquanum our experience has seen this survive winters with up to 35 inches of rain. It grows out in well drained mound. It flowers most years.
It is about 15"tall , 25 years old and has survived night temperatures for short periods at 26 degrees F.

A remarkable plant species. It is dormant from mid-June thru mid-September.

It really began to grow after putting it out into the soil from a greenhouse environment where it grew for 10 years.

Positive palmbob On Aug 23, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

THis plant will grow well in zone 10a in southern California, but my zone 9b was a bit too marginal for it... survived a few winters, but one particularly cold, rainy one rotted it. Have a friend with one in zone 9b though in a particularly nice draining soil and has survived 4 years so far (slow grower!). Loses leaves every fall and comes back in spring. So far no flowers, though.

Positive Happenstance On Oct 1, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

In its native South Africa Pachypodium namaquanum is known as Halfmens or Half a Man because of the apparent nodding of the head as if in conversation.

The species curves toward the sun (North in S. Africa) during winter when it has leaves in order to increase photosynthesis. It remains dormant during the heat of the South African summer. This accounts for the characteristic curvature of the stem.

Blooms infrequently with yellow tubular flowers beginning at approximately 6 years old and 12 tall given all the right conditions. The example I have in my collection is of unknown age and 8 tall.

Positive lynxx On May 26, 2003, lynxx wrote:

Indigenous to an extremely limited portion of South Africa this specialized succulent is known also known as Ghost-man. If moderatately watered in winter and little or no water is given in summer the plant will grow relatively fast, addition of diluted organic liquid fertilizer and/or hoof-and-horn meal to the plant at the beginning of the growing season (winter months, may start early and end in late spring if high humidity is experienced, not recomended though!) the stem can experience an annual growth rate of 4+ cm's. Commencement of the growing season is heralded by the shooting of new leaves. Plants like a light misting of the leaves in the evenings 2 or 3 times a week and a good deep water about once every 2 weeks in the growing season if the air is very dry, less so if humid, carefull watering is needed then as the plant may rot. If the roots rot through overwatering the plant is fairly easy to re-establish. Summer watering should commence after fruiting when the plant begins to drop its leaves.The most striking and attractive member of the genus. It is more frost hardy than one might think and can take winter temperatures to -4C if such frosts are not a regular occurence, otherwise greenhouse is best. Not a houseplant!!!!!


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona
Simi Valley, California
Spring Valley, California

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