Postcard from Cyprus
On holiday on this historic Mediterranean
island, Craig gives a guided palm tour.
Craig Snell, 49 Kilda Road, Highworth, Wilts, SN6 7HP, U.K.
Chamaerops No. 12, published online 23-09-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
A two-week holiday in the Eastern Mediterranean
gave me an insight into palms, which, although familiar to us in
this country, grow so much better when they are given something,
that is often missing in England, namely, heat!
I stayed in Cyprus, where actually I once lived
for nearly six years, although I only became interested in palms
since I left. Such is the way of things.
The climate of Cyprus is very typical of the Mediterranean.
Cool, wet but short winters and long, hot summers. The temperature
while I was there was hot for the time of year. It should have been
cooling down, but if anything it was getting warmer. The temperature
started at about 86¾F during the day and rose by the end of my fortnight
to about 96¾F The palms I saw though looked perfectly at home in
the heat even though I was beginning to wilt.
I arrived on the island at Paphos airport, and the
first palms I saw were Washingtonia filifera, a row of them planted
outside the airport. They were in excellent condition despite the
aridity of the landscape - a fact I noticed that was true for all
the palms I saw. Washingtonias had been used extensively all over
the island for planting as a street tree and in hotel gardens. There
is a line of them that stretches for a mile along the sea front
of Limassol, where they looked very much at home. Other single mature
plants could be seen in gardens and around the old port complex.
They really do stand out with their enormous trunks, and haystacks
of old leaves. I did see a couple of specimens of Washingtonia robusta,
but they were much rarer. They are easy to tell apart from the W
filifera by their taller and more slender trunks.
The second most common palm on the island is one
that goes hand in hand with the Mediterranean Phoenix canariensis
the Canary Island date. Every garden seemed to have one. There are
some magnificent specimens in hotel grounds and around the Greek
Orthodox church near the old port. I only saw two other species
of Phoenix. These were P. dactylifera and P. roebelenii, both of
which seemed very much at home with the climate. The dactyliferas
were heavy with juicy dates that were just waiting to be picked.
The Cypriots make a delicious sweet from these.
The palm that I was looking for though seemed to
elude me for a while until I found one planted in a landscaped area
and subsequently in a few gardens in the Omonia area of Limassol.
This palm was of course, Chamaerops humilis, probably my favourite
palm of all, and the examples I saw were particularly beautiful.
All had glaucous silvery leaves, probably due to the intense heat
The only other palm species I saw out there was
the Queen Palm, Arecastrum romanzoffiana (or Syagrus, I haven't
quite got used to calling it that though). There were three examples
of fairly young plants about twelve feet tall in a landscaped area
at the side of a garden centre at the town of Ipsonas.
This small nursery was beautifully landscaped, and
contained some very interesting plants and planting combinations.
The garden boasted four palm species: Washingtonia filifera, Phoenix
canariensis Phoenix roebelenii, and Chamaerops humilis There were
also some fabulous Yuccas, Agaves, Euphorbias, Aloes, Campsis and
Cyperus. Ficus robusta and benjamina were planted alongside lavender,
rosemary, thyme and senecio. On the whole the small garden was packed
with interesting plants and there was no entrance charge. If you
are ever out there on holiday yourself I strongly recommend a visit.
It is situated on the road to Episkopi village in Ipsonas itself.
During my holiday, I took the opportunity to visit
Egypt, as it is really only a short cruise south from Cyprus. If
the climate of Cyprus is warm temperate, then Egypt has a subtropical
climate. The temperature there rarely drops below 60¾F and can top
120¾F! There were fewer palm trees (and plants in general) in Cairo,
probably due to the baking heat but along with the pyramids and
camels I did see some Phoenix dactylifera as you might expect, plus
some Washingtonia filifera and surprisingly, several Roystonea regia.
I would have thought the climate was much too dry for the latter,
but obviously not.
Well, before long it was time to go home to England.
My only regret was not seeing a larger variety of palms being cultivated.
I suppose they just can't get access to the variety that we can
- and we just haven't got the climate!
Finally, I would just like to apologise profusely
to Excalibur Airlines, and to all the passengers and crew on my
return flight home, who looked on aghast as I boarded the plane
holding a very large, very spiky (but very cheap) example of a Phoenix
canariensis, a wonderful souvenir of Cyprus.
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