Ask a Question forum: Ponytail palm plant eaten by goats and decimated - will it recover?

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Rolla, MO
Oct 24, 2017 12:26 PM CST
I have a ponytail palm plant that is probably about 30 years old. I had it outside for the summer and moved it around last night to bring inside before the frost that is predicted for tonight. It just happened that my goats got out and DECIMATED the plant. I am sick as it was doing so well and now I think it is a goner but want to ask before dumping what remains.

All but like 3 of the leaves are gone from the top. The bark is mostly stripped (like 80%) from the truck all the way around. Some remains down towards the root ball but that is it. The root ball itself is not damaged but the bark is pretty much gone on all the rest.

I know these are hardy plants but is there any hope for recovery? It was in good shape before this happened and I know they store energy so is there any hope of it coming back from this? Should I cut off the top of just leave it as it is now? I know that the bark is what supports the life in any tree so suspect it is a goner.

Let me know what you think,

Thumb of 2017-10-24/cwatkin/f8860d

Name: Scott
Tampa FL (Westchase)
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Oct 24, 2017 12:34 PM CST
Treat it as nothing has happened to it. They are tough plants and will put out new growth. The growth will more than likely return below the damaged areas.
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Rolla, MO
Oct 24, 2017 12:56 PM CST
Thank you. I think I will see where it comes back and cut off the dead wood next spring when I take it back outside. I saw other stories on other forums about the same basic thing and they came back. It sounds like branches or babies may sprout at the base or leaves may come back where it was damaged.

I did see quite a few say that one should cut it off clean where it happened but guess leaving it for now won't hurt a thing either.

Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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Oct 24, 2017 12:58 PM CST
Welcome to NGA! I hope your plant recovers. My bet is that it will, but of course, it will take time.
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Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Oct 24, 2017 1:13 PM CST
Hi Conor, Welcome!

I agree with ScotTi; don't give up on your Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) just yet. They are hardy plants and you should see regrowth at some point ... as long as the goats don't get to it again and finish it off. Green Grin!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~

Rolla, MO
Oct 24, 2017 1:17 PM CST
It will be inside near a window with a grow light on top of it all winter and spring until it is warm enough outside. The grow light was never great but kept them alive. This probably isn't the best time to have this happen for sure. And to think I ALMOST brought it inside yesterday.

How long will it take for new growth to appear?

I had a period where it needed to be repotted although I didn't know. My parents had it and gave it to me. It was in a pot that had a drainage system inside it and I didn't realize this took up like 1/2 the volume of everything within the pot until I repotted it. It took about a year to come back from that was was really thriving for another year until this happened.

Rolla, MO
Nov 14, 2017 10:10 PM CST
It looks like new growth is starting to appear at the top. Leaves are coming out but haven't spread out just yet. It was very healthy so probably had lots of stored energy in its system before this happened.

I guess this plant is technically a succulent and not a tree. The bark was stripped clean off 100% around the trunk but new growth is still coming from the top. I guess this isn't like a normal tree where the bark is the living part of the tree and provides nutrition to the rest of the tree. I live on a farm and sometimes want to kill a tree to later cut down for firewood later in the fall. It will be halfway cured by this time. I just take a chainsaw and ring the bark but leave it standing. This kills the tree and the leaves fall off, pulling a lot of the moisture out of the tree as the dry. Is the inner portion of the trunk living as well or did the goats simply not go deep enough to strip all the bark?

Anyway, the advice to leave the plant alone and not cut anything off until I was sure of the damage was good advice for sure.

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Nov 15, 2017 2:32 PM CST
If your plant had all its bark stripped and still survives, it must be relying on the function of the inner tissue to handle those duties. I would be surprised, but this is a monocot, not a dicot (thus distinct from the maple or whatever) so maybe it behaves differently. You may not find rings inside that correspond to hardwood rings, for example. I have never looked.

Palm trees are also different from regular deciduous oak or maple trees in important aspects like their ability to heal after injury. That's a separate family of course (the ponytail palm is not a palm, more closely related to Yucca or Agave).

I think technically the ponytail palm is a succulent and a tree Smiling After many years, of course.

Onward with the recovery. Thumbs up
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Nov 15, 2017 2:41 PM (+)]
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