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Ponytail Palm in Peril

Joe and Maybelle love to perch on the deck rails and launch attacks on the ponytail's grass-like leaves.

Joe, the Jungle Cat, pauses before going in for the kill.

About 32 years ago I worked at a greenhouse range in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

One of the greenhouses had a bench with flats and flats of tiny ponytail palm seedlings beneath.

One rainy day, when things were slow, I spent about an hour picking through the flats until I found the cutest little seedling with three tiny trunks.  It was about three inches tall.

I potted it into a small pot and it made several moves with me.  I continued to pot it into larger containers.  It is now over 7 feet tall and has fallen on hard times.

It is too heavy for me to move easily and is currently in a very large (20 inch plus) broken plastic pot.

The swollen base stores water but kitties know it is really the perfect scratching post.

Worst of all, a new generation of baby kitties have discovered it.

If I had known how attractive a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is to a cat, I might never have made the commitment to this one.

The long flexible leaves are especially irresistible to kittens.  They climb the trunk or leap off the deck railing to gain access.

Ponytails are also called Elephant’s Foot Palms because with age the enlarged base of their stems becomes trunk-like and swollen to store water.  To humans it looks much like an elephant’s foot.   To a kitty it looks just like the perfect scratching post.

Over these 32 years, generations of kitties including Elwood, Luna, Thibadeaux, Rebob, Molly, Gilly, Bubba, Titah, Lemur, Jeeter and Cakester have frolicked in and on the ponytail palm.

Their shiny pointed teeth and sharp little claws have brought it perilously close to death.

Luckily for the ponytail palm the back garden offers many distractions.

Now the new kits on the block, Joe and Maybelle, have discovered it.  They are greatly enamored of it.  I fear that they will love it to death.  My only hope is that they are distracted by the many other wonderful plants in the area that may be tough enough to take a beating.   They do, after all, have their very own personal black bamboo grove and native plant garden.

In the meantime, I’m worried that the Plant’s Rights Activists may come knocking at my door.  So I have plans to go shopping for a giant pot and maybe a dolly so that I can move this behemoth.

I will probably need to prune the top growth to stimulate new leaves at a shorter height.

Then I will relocate the plant to the front porch – away from Joe and Maybelle for the remainder of the season

I’ve got my work cut out for me!


 

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