Desert trees need tricks up their sleeves to survive the hot, arid conditions and the Bottle Trees of Namibia and Angola (Pachypodium lealii) manage this with bulbous trunks that retain water.
Those trunks don’t just contain water, though. They have another trick up their sleeves to help them keep their water.
It’s also full of poison. This is not the kind of thing you want to find in your water bottles, but it does help the Bottle Tree actually keep its water. Which was their plan all along. That’s why it’s a Bottle Tree and not just a bottle. The poison is so effective that hunters in the region used to smear the sap on their arrows, just to add that extra ‘oomph’. And yet no-one calls it a Poison Dart Tree!
It all works rather well for the Bottle Tree, and they can grow to some 8 metres (26 ft) in height. Although sometimes they only reach about 1 metre (3 ft) tall. If you want to survive in a desert, you need to be willing to give a little. Or a lot. Like 7 metres (23 ft) of your potential height.
The trees are also covered in long, sharp prickles because poison alone might not keep their precious water supply safe.
However tall a Bottle Tree grows, it’ll be almost entirely branchless until the very top. The leaves grow on slender branches and are jealously defended from herbivores by sharp spines. Around May to November the leaves will all drop off as the Bottle Tree diverts all its effort into growing surprisingly extravagant flowers.
Those thorns are magnificent and you’ve got to love a tree that’s so determined and deadly.
From Real Monstrosities, which is a pretty interesting site full of weird and wonderful things.