Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 9, published online 23-09-2002

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Goodbye To All That

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (long may she reign) described 1992 as her 'annus horribilis' and there are many who would agree with her. With the deepening recession, increased interest rates, an exchange rate against foreign currencies that went from absolutely wonderful to absolutely dreadful without even pausing for breath, an indifferent summer and a wild, wet and windy winter, it's no wonder that many are glad to see the back of '92. In Ecuador where I spent Christmas and New Year they have a wonderful custom, which I think, we should adopt over here. The people make life-size dummies, some quite realistic, which represent all the bad luck, bad health and bad debts of the old year, and on the evening of the 31st January they build bonfires on street corners, and burn them! Thus the only people who begin the New Year with any bad luck are the street cleaners who have to clear up the mess!


Apart from being an exciting place to spend this holiday period, Ecuador is wonderful at any time of the year for anyone interested on botany in general and palms in particular. Probably most people will by now have heard of Parajubaea cocoides, that cool-hardy coconut palm look-alike that grows by the hundred on the streets of Quito, the capital. And of course Ecuador is home to many species of Ceroxylon, at 200 feet (60m) tall, long considered the tallest growing plant in the world until the Californian Redwoods stole that particular crown.

But I was quite unprepared for the sheer number of species of palm and the enormous variety. Biodiversity, as it's called, is something Ecuador is very good at, as it were, due entirely to the fact that the country (which is not large) has every conceivable climate from snow covered mountaintops down to humid tropical lowland rain forest, and everything in between.

And I was quite unprepared for palms like Mauritia, so humungous and resembling nothing so much as a huge exploding firework. Or Dictyocaryum, so perfect it could have been man-made. Or the (by now) famous red-crownshafted palm growing on the Inca Trail where, surprisingly, so many of the plants have a preponderance towards red. Of course, there were many more, large and small, a real paradise for the palm enthusiast. In a future issue, all will be written up and you will able to read all about in due course, so watch this space!

Deliberate Misteak

If you should ever want to hand somebody a stick with which to beat you, arrange a 'Deliberate Mistake' competition and invite readers to spot the error! I never realized that there could be so many mistakes in 28 pages, and I feel thoroughly admonished, and promise to take more care in future. In spite of all this nobody spotted all three mistakes I deliberately made, only ones that were unintentional! There were some very clever answers (22nd December was a Sunday, not a Saturday, which it was, and the trip took 7/8 days not 6. This was also true. These from Chris Tapp) and lots of spelling errors (Acrotrichum not Achrotrichum; Carpobrotus not Carprodotus. These from G. T. B. Cooper). For the record the three mistakes were: Page 8:10 metres not 10cms. Page 18: Naples is south of Rome. Page 21: pH 8.5 is alkaline not acid. Sorry nobody won the prize, but thanks to all who took part.


I suppose you could say that another deliberate mistake was to omit a caption for the picture on the front cover. In fact it is the same Butia capitata that was featured in Chamaerops issue 5, in January 1991. It is in Penzance. The cover of the previous issue showed the glasshouse roof to be found in 'the City of Glass' in Laeken. See this issue, page 16.

Renewals, Subscriptions

I don't want to sound like a gramophone record that's stuck in a groove but I do want to remind you of our ever present need for more members. We can only afford to produce this magazine with a full complement of members, and we're some short.
I'd like to say 'thanks' to those who are regularly enrolling new people, and to those members on the continent who heeded my request to put a notice in their national gardening magazines. This, too, has brought in some new people. But we still need more. The other point that belongs in this paragraph is a request to renew your membership promptly if and when it falls due. You will know it's time for renewal if there is a letter with this issue, if so, don't delay, renew today!

Finally, sincere apologies for the late arrival of this issue. Holidays, Christmas, even sickness have all conspired to delay its appearance. Hope you like the new style and will forgive me! M.G.

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  02-02-23 - 12:02GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...