Tuesday, July 24, 2012


O. decaryi in habitat

Today I'm going to tell you about the Jabily tree, which is also called Operculicarya decaryi.  In my opinion, this scientific name is way too long and hard to spell and also hard to pronounce.  Not that anybody asked me, but I'm just saying.  Sometimes the Jabily tree is called "elephant tree" because it has a fat trunk like an elephant's leg, but there are other trees that are also called "elephant tree" so if you use this name, it can be confusing.

O. decaryi in a pot
Anyway, the Jabily tree comes from the southwest part of Madagascar.  Its trunk can be a meter in diameter, and the whole tree can be 9 meters tall, which is something like 30 feet.  The first person to describe the tree in a scientific way was Joseph Marie Henry Alfred Perrier de la Bathie, in 1944.  And I would like to describe Monsieur Bathie as a man with way too many names!

Mom's first O. decaryi
The reason I am telling you about this tree is because Mom has two of them, but they are not 9 meters tall.  They are only maybe a foot tall, and they live in pots.  Mom used to only have one Operculicarya, but then at the cactus conference, during the auction, she bought another one.  The one she bought used to belong to Aunt Barbara, but Aunt Barbara couldn't figure out how to grow it for sure.  Sometimes when she entered it in a show, the judges said it needed more "training."  And other times they said it was a wonderful plant and gave it a big award.

The one Mom bought
at the auction
So Mom bought it, and she is going to try to "train" it.  Plus she might try to "train" her first Operculicarya a little more.  I thought when Mom said she was going to train her plants that she meant she would teach them to sit and stay and heel, like you train a dog.  But it turns out that this is not what you train a plant to do.  What you train a plant to do is grow into interesting shapes or to wrap its roots around a rock or something like that.  And all this training stuff is called bonsai.

Mom doesn't know a whole lot about bonsai, but she is going to try to learn.  When you are trying to make a succulent plant  grow in a bonsai way, the idea seems to be to make the plant have a big, fat stem with only a few branches and leaves.  At least that's what it looks like to me.

At the cactus conference, there was a show, and Mom entered her Jabily tree.  She had not really trained it to do anything, except that she kept it pruned back so that it didn't have a lot of leaves.  This made the stem of the tree get fatter and bumpier and more interesting-looking.  Mom was not sure if she was doing the right thing with this plant, but she got a 4th place in that class, which had a whole bunch of plants in it.  So she was really happy.

O. decaryi flowers
Anyway, some Jabily trees have knobby bark, like Mom's do, and others have smoother bark.  There are male trees and female trees, and if you want seeds, you have to have one of each.  Mom doesn't want seeds, so she doesn't really care if her trees are boys or girls.  The flowers are really small, and they are kind of a reddish-brown color.

The new O. decaryi trying to
tie itself into a knot!
That's about all I know to tell you about the Jabily tree.  I tried to find out if there are any animals that like to live in the tree or eat the fruit, but I couldn't find that information during my 15 minutes of in-depth research.  Maybe I can talk Mom into taking me to Madagascar, because if we went there, we could see a bunch of interesting plants and also funny-looking animals such as lemurs.  And I think that would be fun.  Especially the lemurs.


  1. There's one thing I'm about to comment about the Jabily Tree. It sounds funny. It's like Jubilee but spelled weirdly.

    Wow, 9 meters... that's a long way to go for those tiny Jabilies ^^

    Huggies and Cheese,


    1. Well, my mom's Jabily trees will never get to 9 meters tall because Mom is always pruning them back. We don't have room for anything that tall in our house, and if the tree was outside, it would die during the cold winter. You're right about how it sounds like Jubilee. I hadn't thought of that!

      Your friend, Piper