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Products > Calibanus hookeri
Calibanus hookeri - Sacamecate
Image of Calibanus hookeri
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Nolinoidae (Asparagaceae)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Insignificant
Bloomtime: Infrequent
Synonyms: [Beaucarnea hookeri]
Height: 1-2 feet
Width: 1-2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 10-15° F
Calibanus hookeri - An evergreen plant that has tufts of gray-green 1 foot long grass-like leaves that emerge from a large swollen corky caudex that can reach 1-2 feet or more in diameter with age. The leaves emerge upright in many separate tufts and then arch down as they mature. Hidden in the foliage are the flowers. Male and female flowers are on separate plants with females bearing red berries. Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil and water sparingly - this is a drought tolerant plant. Hardy to 10 degrees F. This curious plant looks like a grass in the landscape, particularly when young, and is interesting specimen in a shallow pot with the caudex base elevated for viewing. This unusual plant was first discovered around 1845 but was not described until 1859 when it was misidentified as Dasylirion hartwegianum by Sir William Hooker at Kew. This mistake was quickly rectified by Charles Lemaire, who renamed it Dasylirion hookeri. In 1906 Joseph Rose established the then monotypic genus Calibanus to include this plant, but used the incorrect epithet "caespitosus" and William Trealease finally published the current name in 1911. Despite these early discoveries, this plant went back into relative obscurity until it was rediscovered in 1968 in San Luis Potosi by Charlie Glass and Robert Foster and all plants now in cultivation were disseminated from this rediscovery, which was recorded in the November-December 1970 Cactus and Succulent Society of America Journal (Vol. 42 No 6) in an article titled "Mexico Logbook, Part 5" by Charles Glass and Bob Foster. In this article it was noted that the plant was found in 1968 at the top of a hill on mountain tops near Balneario de Lourdes in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It turned out that this plant is fairly common on the hilltops of central Mexico, and has been used by the indigenous people, where it is known as Sacamecate, for thatching roofs as well as for scouring dishes, since it contains a soap-like compound in in the leaves. It is thought that because of its grass-like camouflage and mostly subterranean caudex, which has been described as up to the size of a Volkswagen, it was overlooked by most succulent collectors until Glass and Foster literally stumbled upon it after noticing children collecting its leaves - when they first tried to dig up individual clumps they kept breaking then off until they realized that they were actually standing on the large caudexes from which these tufts were growing. They brought back several large plants and collected seed which produced the plants sold at their Abbey Gardens nursery and later released through the International Succulent Introduction Program as Calibanus hookeri ISI 688. The genus is named for Caliban, the ugly monster in Shakespeare's Tempest and the specific epithet honors William Hooker. Besides the colloquial name Sacamecate, it is sometimes commonly called Mexican Boulder Plant. Calibanus was long considered the only species in a monotypic genus but a second species with longer and broader blue leaves and a much larger inflorescence bearing bigger flowers was discovered in 1995 in Guanajuato and was named Calibanus glassianus in 2003 to honor the late Charles Glass. Recent DNA work by DNA study by Vanessa Rojas-Piña, Mark E. Olson, Leonardo O. Alvarado-Cárdenas and Luis E. Eguiarte shows that Calibanus is nested squarely in the middle of the genus Beaucarnea, making this plant's name Beaucarnea hookeri, but there is some disagreement on this treatment and until such time that this name gets more recognition, we continue to list it as Calibanus. The image of the large specimen in a pot in front of the chalk-white Maireana sedifolia was taken at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. The second image of a Calibanus used in a mass planting like a grass was taken at the long gone Tony's Cactus Garden in Buellton, CA. The oldest plant we have in the nursery is a large specimen that came from the collection of Alice Waidhofer which she received in 1973 from Jay Dodson, one of the original founders of the International Succulent Introductions program that is now maintained by the Huntington Botanic Garden. 

This information about Calibanus hookeri displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.