Caudiciform Plants Explained

Chances are that you either own or have seen more than one type of caudiciform plant in your life. These are a type of plant that have a caudex, which is a plump, swollen trunk, above-ground roots, or stem. Caudices, which is the plural of caudex, are an evolutionary adaptation that help the plants store water when it is plentiful so it can be used during dry seasons.

Many of the caudiciform plants that house plant owners commonly have or see come from the desert regions of Latin America and Africa and there are hundreds of them, including many plants that you wouldn’t automatically recognize as caudex plants. They include such things as trees, some grasses, succulents, vines, and a couple types of bulbs. While some of the genera that have caudiciform plants are not very common, other selections of caudex plants are genera that you see quite often, such as Aloe and Euphorbia.

Examples of Caudiciform Plants:

Baseball plant — Euphorbia obesa

Buddha belly — Jatropha podagrica

Desert Rose — Adenium obesum

Elephant foot/turtle back — Dioscorea elephantipes

Elephant tree — Bursera microphylla

Hottentot bread/stump milkweed — Fockea edulis

Maiden’s quiver tree — Aloe ramosissima

Ming aralia — Polyscias fruticosa

Ocotillo — Fouquieria fasciculata

Ponytail palm — Beaucarnea recurvata

Pregnant onion — Albuca bracteata, syn. Ornithogalum longibracteatum

Queensland bottle tree — Brachychiton rupestris

Red paperdrops — Agapetes serpens

Shaving brush tree — Pseudobombax ellipticum

Tree grape — Cyphostemma juttae

Fun fact, many caudex plants are classified as pachycauls as well. This term is derived from the Greek word, pachy, meaning thick, and the Latin word caulis, meaning stem. These thick stemmed plants only have a few braches in relation to the size of their trunk, think Beaucarnea recurvata, aka ponytail palm.