Beaucarnea is a genus of four species of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 native to Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

, and Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

. In the APG III classification system
APG III system
The APG III system of flowering plant classification is the third version of a modern, mostly molecular-based, system of plant taxonomy...

, it is placed in the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

Asparagaceae is the botanical name of a family of flowering plants, placed in the order Asparagales of the monocots.In earlier classification systems, the species involved were often treated as belonging to the family Liliaceae...

, subfamily Nolinoideae (formerly the family Ruscaceae). Beaucarnea is sometimes treated as a synonym of the genus Nolina, with the four species being then transferred to that genus.

The species are small tropical xerophytic tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s growing to 6-10 m tall, with a trunk 20-40 cm diameter with a flared base; young plants are single-stemmed, branching only after flowering. The leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

, linear, strap-shaped, 0.5-1.8 m long and 1.5-2 cm broad, leathery in texture, with a finely serrated margin. The flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are produced only on old trees, forming on large panicle
A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

s 75-110 cm long, the individual flowers numerous but very small (1.5 mm diameter), greenish-white, with six tepal
Tepals are elements of the perianth, or outer part of a flower, which include the petals or sepals. The term tepal is more often applied specifically when all segments of the perianth are of similar shape and color, or undifferentiated, which is called perigone...


Selected species
  • Beaucarnea gracilis (syn. B. oedipus, Nolina gracilis)
  • Beaucarnea guatemalensis (syn. Nolina guatemalensis)
  • Beaucarnea pliabilis
  • Beaucarnea recurvata
    Beaucarnea recurvata
    Beaucarnea recurvata, the Ponytail palm is a species of Beaucarnea. The ponytail palm is native to the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and San Luis Potosí in eastern Mexico...

    (syn. Nolina recurvata)

Cultivation and uses

The most commonly seen species is Beaucarnea recurvata
Beaucarnea recurvata
Beaucarnea recurvata, the Ponytail palm is a species of Beaucarnea. The ponytail palm is native to the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and San Luis Potosí in eastern Mexico...

(syn. Nolina recurvata), which is often called the “ponytail palm” in English (although it is not a true palm
Arecaceae or Palmae , are a family of flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. There are roughly 202 currently known genera with around 2600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates...

). This species is often grown as a houseplant
A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors in places such as residences and offices. Houseplants are commonly grown for decorative purposes, positive psychological effects, or health reasons such as indoor air purification...

in temperate latitudes. Successful cultivation requires winter minimum temperatures of above 10 °C, rising to around 30 °C in summer; frequent watering is needed in summer, but not in winter, when they require relatively dry conditions to avoid root decay.
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