And so begin the blooms
Q: I saw your article regarding the ponytail palm that bloomed ("Ask Dr. Hort," June 19). We too were surprised by blooms this year. The palm is more than 30 years old and was moved from a pot to the ground about 17 years ago. My questions to you are a) will the tree bloom annually now?, b) what will happen to the blooms that are there now? and c) how do you create a baby ponytail palm?
Debi Wohlers, Odessa
A: You are among the multitude of gardeners in the Tampa Bay area that had bloomin' ponytails for the first time in decades. I believe the past winter triggered many plants to bloom like they've never bloomed before. Now that your ponytail has bloomed, it will to do so every summer. As for seed, your plant is either male or female. If you have a female and there is a male nearby, you just might get some fruit (red and about 1/2 inch long), which will have seeds. If you have a male, you can feel comforted that it has pollinated some females nearby — and perhaps a neighbor would be willing to share seeds.
Same plant, new name
Q: For 20 years we've had ponytails planted as part of our landscaping. The ponytails have flowered for the first time and are covered with clouds of insects, including bees — it's a beautiful sight. . . . Can you tell us the difference between Nolina recurvata and Beaucarnea recurvata (we thought we had the latter, but your June 19 article identifies it as Nolina recurvata)?
Lili Garrett, Largo
A: Every five years or so the Royal Horticultural Society (the body that governs scientific naming) works on groups of plants that were named before permanent rules were adopted in the 1930s (quite an undertaking). As a result, some scientific names will change from time to time, as is the case for ponytail. The old name Beaucarnea recurvata and the new name Nolina recurvata will be interchanged for years to come.
Color offers a clue
Q: My ponytail palm bloomed last year and is again blooming this year (two stalks this time). I'll be looking forward to seeing the plant set fruit as you have given me hope for additional plants for myself and for sharing.
Margaret Hewett, St. Petersburg
A: Congratulations on your blooming ponytail! The fruiting cycle is tenuous at best. Ponytails are dioecious, meaning that the male and female flowers occur on different plants. If your spray of flowers is cream colored, you have a male; if the spray is pink, you have a female. After pollination, female ponytails will produce fruit after flowering.