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Family Agavaceae
Ponytail Plant
Beaucarnea recurvata Lem.

Scientific names Common names
Beaucarnea inermis (S.Watson) Rose Bottle palm (Engl.)
Beaucarnea recurvata Lem. Elephant foot tree (Engl.)
Beaucarnea tuberculata Roezl Maya palm (Engl.)
Dasylirion inerme S.Watson Nolina (Engl.)
Dasylirion recurvatum (Lem.) J.F.Macbr. Ponytail plant (Engl.)
Nolina recurvata (Lem.) Hemsl.  
Pincenectitia tuberculata Lem.  
Beaucarnea recurvata Lem. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
FINNISH: Huiskupullojukka.
GERMAN: Elefantenfuss, Flaschenbaum, Ponyschwanz.

Elephant foot tree is a very slow-growing evergreen shrub or tree. Bole is sparsely branched, up to 8 meters tall, topped by a terminal tuft of leaves, recurved, strap-shaped, and leathery, 2 meters long; base is flasked-shaped and swollen, up to 2 meters in diameter.

- Ornamental cultivation worldwide.
- Native to Mexico.

- Study of stems yielded seven steroidal saponins, five of which appeared to be new compounds and were assigned as spirosta-5,25(27)-diene-1 beta,3 beta-diol (neoruscogenin) 1-O--O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1--> 2)-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1-->3)]-alpha-L-arabinopyranoside-, (25S)-spirost-5-ene-1 beta,3 beta-diol [(25S)-ruscogenin] 1-O-{O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-->2)-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1--> 3)]-alpha-L-arabinopyranoside}, neoruscogenin 1-O-{O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-->2)-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1--> 3)]-beta-D-fucopyranoside}, 26-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-22-O-methylfurosta-5,25(27)-diene-1 beta,3 beta,22 xi,26-tetrol 1-O--O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1--> 2)-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl-(1-->3)]-alpha-L-arabinopyranoside- and 26-O-beta-D-glucopyranosylfurosta-5,20(22),25(27)-triene-1 beta,3 beta,26-triol 1-O-{O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1--> 2)-alpha-L-arabinopyranoside}. (2)
- Study of fresh stems yielded three cholestane bisdesmosides:  (22S)-cholest-5-ene-1β, 3β, 16β, 22-tetrol 1-O-β-D-glucopyranoside 16-O-α-L-rhamnopyranoside (1), (22S)-cholest-5-ene-1β, 3β, 16β, 22-tetrol 1, 16-di-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (2) and (22S)-cholest-5-ene-1β, 3β, 16β, 22-tetrol 1-O-{O-α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1→2)-β-D-glucopyranoside} 16-O-α-L-rhamnopyranoside (3), respectively.  (see study below) (5)
- Study of stems isolated five new polyhydroxylated steroidal saponins, named recurvosides A-E. (9)

- Large swollen base can store water for long periods.
- Reported as a plant toxic to dogs.
- Considered a non-toxic plant, safe around pets and children in the home. It is ASPCS approved as non-toxic for dogs, cats, and horses. (See report on rabbit poisoning. (3)


- Trunk reportedly edible, sometimes roasted and the interior portion eaten. (
- No reported medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Fiber: Used for cordage.
- Crafts: Tough leaves used for thatching, making brooms, mats, hats, etc.
- Cordage: Fiber used as rope.(3)

Steroidal Saponins:
Study of stems yielded seven steroidal saponins and were evaluated for inhibitory activity on cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase to identify new compounds with medicinal potential. (see constituents above) (2)
Poisoning: Short communication reports on a pet rabbit poisoning attributed to ingestion of Beaucarnea recurvata. (4)
• Cholestane Bisdesmosides / Inhibitory Activity on cAMP / Stems: Study of fresh stems yielded three cholestane bisdesmosides. The isolated compounds and their derivatives were evaluated for inhibitory activity on cAMP phosphodiesterase and Na+/K+ ATPase. (see constituents above) (5)
• Chemical Composition / Cork: Plant has a thick corky outer bark. Study showed low suberin content and enhanced lignocellulosic nature. The lignin composition showed a HGS-type of lignin. Overall, it showed low amount of phenolics and unremarkable antioxidant content. (8)

- Ornamental cultivation.
- Seeds in the cybermarket.

Updated September 2021 / September 2018
September 2017

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Beaucarnea recurvata / Synonyms / The Plant List

Steroidal saponins from Nolina recurvata stems and their inhibitory activity on cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase. / Mimaki Y., Y. Takaashi, M. Kuroda, Y. Sashida and T. Nikaido / Phytochemistry 42(6): 1609–1615 (1996)
Beaucarnea recuvata / Useful Tropical Plants
Poisoning by Beaucarnea recurvata (Nolina recurvata) in a pet rabbit: a new case report / Amir Rostami, Bijan Ziaie Ardestani, Shahabedin Mohyedini / Comp Clin Pathol (2011) Vol 20, Issue 4: pp 409-411 / DOI: 10.1007/s00580-010-1133-z
Three New Cholestane Bisdesmosides from Nolina recurvata Stems and Their Inhibitory Activity on cAMP Phosphodiesterase and Na+/K+ ATPase / Yoko Takaashi, Yoshihiro Mimaki et al / Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, Vol 43, Issue 7 (1995)
Plants Toxic to Dogs / Austin Humane Society
Beaucarnea recurvata / Common names / EOL
Chemical composition and cellular structure of ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) cork
/ Ali Sen, Isabel Miranda, Joana Ferreira, Ana Lourenco, Helena Pereira / Industrial Crops and Products, 2018; Vol 124: pp 845-855
Recurvosides A-E, new polyhydroxylated steroidal saponins from Nolina recurvata stems / Yoko Takaashi, Yoshihiro Mimaki, Taichi Ohmoto et al / Tetrahedron, Feb 1995; 51(8): pp 2281-2292

DOI: It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

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