Most readers will know this as a pony tail palm, usually sold as a pot plant when it is maybe 25cm tall. You will find them in the house plants section in supermarkets, chain stores and garden centres because they are reasonably tolerant of indoor conditions with good light levels. Even as young plants, they start to develop a distinctive bowl at the base with a single stem topped by a tuft of long green leaves. As they come from Mexico where they grow in hot, arid conditions, it is a bit of a miracle that our plant is still alive after fifty or so years in conditions that are anything but.
It is rare to see these plants flowering out of the wild because they need to be quite large and mature before they bloom. Our plant is about 4 metres high. Had one side not rotted out, the bowl at the base would measure well over 4 metres in circumference. However, we have 2 metres of brilliant bowl and a near horizontal line across the back. It is a miracle the plant hangs on and we had thought we might lose the whole thing to rot but it seems to manage. These plants are close relatives of yuccas which makes them members of the Liliaceae group but they are not spiky in any way.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.