on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Thank you for publishing my first article 'Big Leaves'
(January issue) in its well edited form. The picture was quite good,
however it is a photo of Philodendron speciosum, so not a Colocasia
at all. Perhaps you would like to point this out in the next issue.
Philip Bell - Cheshire
I looked up P. speciosum in Graf's 'Tropica' and it appears to have
very glossy leaves, and veins the same colour as the leaves whereas
the plant in the photo (taken at Canton airport in China) didn't
have glossy leaves at all, and the veining was white or pale yellow,
which contrasted well with the leaf colour, more like the picture
of Alocasia lowii-grandis in the same book, however you'll probably
tell me that it doesn 't grow such huge leaves, and I confess I'm
no expert. MG.
I would be interested to hear readers' observations
on the use of soap-based insecticides on palms and other exotics.
I have for about 18 months now been using 'Safers',
a well-known insecticide containing fatty acid soaps, as a control
for red spider mite (I might add that it has been by far the most
effective means of controlling the little blighters). Unfortunately
I've noticed a tendency for the leaves, particularly of seedling
palms, to gradually soften, shrivel up and blacken, in a number
of cases leading to the death of the plant. At first I put this
down to overwatering, but subsequent observations have suggested
that the damage begins to appear immediately after a spraying operation.
I don't rule out over-watering altogether; perhaps the spray weakens
the plant sufficiently for soil fungi to take hold.
Other plants, which have reacted badly to this insecticide,
include Albizzia julibrissin (dropping leaflets), Musa basjoo (damage
to leaves but quick recovery), and some young Puya caerulea (marking
of leaves). The label on the container does advise against using
the spray on ferns, but there is no mention of other plants.
Philip McErlean - Belfast
I have been told that Trachycarpus wagnerianus is
not as hardy as T. fortunei, despite the leaves being thicker, stiffer
and more leathery. Can anyone clear this point up? Peter Allan -
T. wagnerianus' is considered these days to he simply a 'form' of
T. fortunei and not a distinct specie's. The reasons for this are
obvious: The single difference is the leaf shape, there are halfway
versions between the two, and 'Waggie's 'are not known in the wild.
Thus there should he no difference in the cold hardiness, though
certainly the stiff leaves are much more tolerant of wind. MG.
When the promised article on Cycads is published,
you might like to add this note about light direction and its effect
on new cycad leaves.
The growing tip of a new cycad frond grows towards
the light very faithfully, but it is only the extreme tip that reacts
to light, just formed tissue reacts to light no longer, and remains
in situ. Thus a surrealist grower could produce a plant with zigzag
fronds. I began my collection with 4 seedling plants. When a new
leaf appeared, the plant in question was always left positioned
at the same orientation. The end result of this is that the frond
finished its growth upside down.
As soon as a new frond appears, it is therefore
essential to examine it carefully, perhaps with a magnifying glass,
to see which way the young leaflets are positioned on the petiole.
The plant should then immediately be orientated so that the young
leaflets are facing away from the light. The young frond will then
grow upwards and outwards with the leaflets uppermost, finally ceasing
growth naturally formed. The plant will therefore require repositioning
with each new frond. If there is more than one frond, regular turning
of the plant may be the answer, or try a mirror behind, correctly
Anthony Walker - London SW20
Point taken, although top light is obviously the best idea for cycads
if at all possible. If the weather permits they grow new leaves
much better if placed outdoors in the sun. The leaves are shorter
and more compact; indoors they can get a bit etiolated indoors if
the light isn't good enough. MG
I grow about 70 species of palms here in Messina,
Sicily and I hope to write an article about them for a later issue
Recently I visited the wonderful Fairchild Tropical
Garden in Florida. I was very impressed with Sabal princeps, but
I wonder, is it a valid species? And is it the largest of the Sabals?
I picked up seed of a few species of palm while
I was there. Some that germinated are Veitchia arecina. Do you think
I could grow this one outdoors here in Sicily?
Carlo Morici, Messina, Italy
Phoenix Can., And Does
Enclosed please find my renewal form and subscription
Things have come through the winter pretty well
O.K. here in Leicestershire. The big surprise was Phoenix canariensis.
I had two of them outside, in their pots but plunged, in decidedly
unpleasant conditions of cold, wind and rain, and twice we had temperatures
down to -6°C and there has been no damage at all to the foliage
which is still a glossy green.
It was different with Trachycarpus, rather a mixed
bag of results, and frankly I don't know what to make of it. I began
with 6 plants; 5 T. fortunei and I rogue 'waggie', all originally
the same size, though from different sources. Well, the 'waggie'
has beaten all the others, and was quite unharmed by -10°C.
One of the others also grew so well that last year I planted it
out and it, too, was unharmed. The others had mixed results, a couple
are in such poor condition and I've just about given up on them.
They have brown leaflets and a very so-so appearance, though they
do have promising green spears. All 6 plants were kept together
and planted in the same compost, so why have I had such varying
results? Could seed provenance play a part?
Dick Osburne - Loughborough, Leics.
Made In ... Zuoushan
I read recently about a Trachycarpus fortunei in
Inverewe, Scotland being the most northerly growing palm in Europe.
I would be very interested to learn of any others that are further
north still. And why is it called the Chusan Palm?
David Stewart - Stirling, Scotland
Don 't know about the first question but the answer to the second
one is that it was on Chusan Island - or Chou-Shan or Zhoushan as
it's now known - that Robert Fortune, famous plant hunter, first
saw the palm that was to bear his name. The plants he saw were more
than likely cultivated specimens however.
Zhoushan Island is in the East China Sea, off
Hangzhou (Hangchow), south of Shanghai, and at one time it was to
have been the main British settlement in the area. However, that
honour went to Hong Kong instead, and the rest is history.
I wonder if the two old Trachycarpus by the main
gate at Kew Gardens came from seed he collected there? MG.
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