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Operculicarya decaryi, known as elephant tree or jabily, is a thick stemmed succulent plant species in the family Anacardiaceae, named after the botanical collector Raymond Decary. 


Description: The Jabily or “elephant tree” (Operculicarya decaryi) is a natural succulent bonsai tree or shrub from Madagscar with thickened roots. It is a very slow growing, deciduous, dioecious pachycaul, looking somewhat like a dwarf baobab, rarely exceeding 5 metres tall, but sometimes taller (up to 15 meters in very old spectacular specimen trees?). It has small (less than 2 mm) red flowers in winter. The inflorescence is at the end of short branches and often consist of about five flowers.

Derivation of specific name: This species is named after the collector Raymond Decary.

Stem: Trunk, parallel-sided, bottle-shaped, , barrel-shaped, globular or conical, 1-6 m tall 30-100 cm in diameter, bark irregularly tuberculate (warty-bumpy), fissured dark grey. Branches umbrella-like, thin, spreading, zigzag. Twigs glabrous or hairy and glabrescent, straight. Young plants of Operculicarya decaryi have a round, football-like caudex and are very attractive

Roots: Thick, fleshy water-storing.

Leaves: Paripinnate 2.5-6 cm long, with (4-)5-7(-9) pairs of leaflets, glabrous or with scattered hairs, rachis often conspicuously winged. Leaflets circular to ovate, 4-7 x 3-4 mm, not touching each other, tip rounded, upper face dark green and glossy, lower face paler, with 3-4 pairs of veins.


Unisexual, inconspicuous, dark red. The pedicels are articulated and have multicellular glandular hairs, which also occur on the bracts, bracteoles and perianth

Fruits: Stalked. The fruit is a typical drupe, 5-6 mm long, globose to drop-shaped containing a mostly unilocular, woody stone (hard seed) which is operculate (having an operculum, a small covering or lid).Cultivation and

Propagation: Operculicarya decaryi is fairly easy to grow both indoors, as well as outdoors. In the winters it is deciduous, except in very tropical areas. It cannot tolerate freezing conditions. Propagation from seed is very slow and modest-sized plants require several years growth

Growth rate: It is a fairly slow growing plant.

Soil: It prefer a porous gritty or sandy soil with at least 50% inorganics, and requires excellent drainage.

Fertilization: Fertilize regularly for good growth and health.

Repoting: Repot the plant every 3 years; this is quite tricky given the spines.

Waterings: It needs regular water when the plant has leaves since it is a tree, contrary to popular belief, it likes a lot of water in the warm summers, as long as it’s planted in a very well draining soil. Indoors it is best to keep on the dry side, or it is prone to rot. During the winter they may go dormant, so water less during this period.

Exposures: It like full sun to light shade with warm temperatures.

Temperatures: Temperature from spring to autumn: nocturnal 15°C or more and diurnal 25-45°C. Wintering: nocturnal 10°C or more and diurnal 18°C or more

Cultural Practices: Operculicaryas need a dry/cool season in order to bloom.

Traditional uses: It is utilized medicinally to aid human parturition, ropes are made using the bark, and the trunk interior is traditionally used for mummification. This species also serves ornamental purposes and the fruit is consumed by humans.



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