Pachypodium lealii is one reason why books on local plants are made to deal with the southern African region and not South Africa exclusively. This beautiful succulent shrub or tree, sometimes called the bottle tree, grows in the northwest of Namibia and south of Angola (SA Tree List No. 648).
Australia has a beautiful bottle tree as well: Brachychiton rupestris, the Queensland bottle tree. But that would stretch regional inclusion too far for now, so use Google.
P. lealii is spiny on the upper, thin branches, conspicuously bare and smooth on the thickset trunk below. It grows to 6 m on arid rocky hillsides. The bark is grey or brown, either with transversal scars or smooth. Branches occur near the top only, covered in numerous, slender, straight spines.
Damage to the bark causes a toxic watery latex to appear. This is one of the poisons used by traditional bow and arrow hunters of the region.
The few deciduous leaves are crowded, often fascicled, near stem tips. Leaf shape is obovate to oblong with pointed tip and tapering base. The leaf is sessile, the margin entire and wavy. Both leaf surfaces are covered in short hairs.
The fruits are pale brown, paired and dehiscent follicles. The seeds have silky hairs of up to 2 cm appended (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.kew.org).