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Seed Success

Just a short letter, which may be of interest to readers of Chamaerops, on the subject of germinating difficult seeds. For those who have tried, without success, to germinate those granite-like seeds of palms such as Parajubaea or Butia, I can report on a method, which has had some success and interesting results.

The idea came to me after reading a German seed list that I sent for some years ago, which suggested using pure vermiculite as a sterile medium in which to germinate palm seeds. I recalled a Cornish nurseryman who had made attempts to germinate 'Coquito' nuts (i.e. the kernels of Jubaea chilensis), but without success, due to them rotting in his peat-based compost. I decided to try for myself and bought a tray of Coquitos from Sainsbury's at about 60 for £1.50. Planted in pure vermiculite in a small heated propagator and kept moist, 10 of the shelled seeds germinated. In fact the sinkers grew so fast that some of them died by coming into contact with the hot base of the propagator, but at least the experiment was a success. I hadn't heard of a shelled palm seed of this type being germinated before. I decided to try again, using a similar method, pure vermiculite, kept moist in plastic bags. The target - germination of Parajubaea cocoides seeds, well known to be difficult. Ten seeds were purchased for the experiment and planted in the bags, as described above, 10 months ago. Two of the seeds germinated after 9 months in a semi-warm airing cupboard. Again success; hopefully the rest will follow. As soon as germination takes place the seeds can be transferred to a normal growing medium; the Jubaeas in normal fashion threw up a single leaf during their first summer and settled down to slow progress. The Parajubaeas are under constant observation, but should do well. I'm now about to try the same method with a batch of Syagrus glaucescens, and I'd recommend it to anyone having difficulty with germinating tricky palm seeds.

By the way, if no one else has investigated the Sefton Park Butias I will try and make a visit. I live about 1 1/2 hours south of Liverpool.
Steve Powell, Shropshire

Please do! And take your camera! MG

Palms In Turkey

In answer to your plea in the last issue of Chamaerops. There is not a 'real' botanic garden in Turkey, although there are some small ones in the big universities of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, etc. There is one park in Ankara called 'Botanical Garden' but with very few species of trees. There are some old and beautiful gardens in Istanbul, but these are also not botanical gardens in the strict sense. Apart from one in Istanbul there is another arboretum, privately owned, in Yalova, about 150km south-east of Istanbul, with very good specimen trees, especially Acer species. I am afraid most botanists and agriculturalists in Turkey are not very adventurous, which is why I began my palm business. I want to introduce new palms to Turkey as at the moment the only ones we have outside seem to be Washingtonia (both species), Phoenix canariensis, P. dactylifera, P. theophrastii (the only native), Trachycarpus fortunei and probably Chamaerops humilis. By the way, Professor M. Boydak from the Forestry Faculty of the University of Istanbul has located a new occurrence of Phoenix theophrastii somewhere near Bodrum in the southwest of our country.

I hope to send more information about the palms in Turkey as you have suggested, in 1994.
Dr. Ragip Esener, Samsun, Turkey

...And Saudi-Arabia

Thank you for Editions 10 and 11 of your splendid magazine, which I found informative and well written. The colour photographs in Edition 10 were particularly pleasing and my wife has now framed these for wall display.

Palms in Saudi? Besides the endemic Phoenix dactylifera and the ubiquitous Washingtonias, the only palms I've seen growing outdoors in Saudi over the 20 years I've spent here are Doum palms (Hyphaene) growing in a Wadi east of Medina and on the Tihama Plain adjacent to the Red Sea. These are also endemic. Jeddah has now landscaped its Corniche with Cocos, which grow quite well in that region due to its proximity to the Red Sea. They can also be grown in the Eastern Province, which lies on the Arabian Gulf. However, they will not grow in Riyadh, which lies in the centre of the Peninsula. There are also two imported Sabal palms (species unknown), which were planted 6 years ago outside a central Riyadh nursery. I have also been very surprised to see approximately 10 full size Royals (Roystonea) growing in a public garden in the centre of Riyadh. As you know, Royals are usually tropical and for them to grow in a fully arid environment like central Saudi Arabia is very unusual; indeed a significant number of Roystoneas were specially flown in from Florida for transplanting at the Royal Reception Pavilion at Jedda's King Abdulaziz International Airport in 1981, prior to its opening. However they all languished and eventually expired under the intense Arabian sun and the airport construction project manager considered them unsuitable for Saudi Arabia. They were replaced with Dactyliferas. Temperatures here in Riyadh can go as high as 40°c in the shade during the peak summer months (June-August) while winter temperatures can fall as low as 0°C.

I will be finishing my contract in Saudi shortly, and will have a 3-month spell in the Philippines (my second home) before returning to the U.K. I will try to send you some notes on Palm-hunting in the Phils and also hopefully some photographs.
Peter Bull, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

...And Russia

On the subject of obscure botanical gardens (Aburi, Ghana; Cluj-Napoca, Romania, etc.) you may like to add this one, discovered in an 'Intourist' tourist brochure about tours to Russia. It is at Sukhumi, on the Black Sea Coast of Georgia, and boasts over 500 species of plants imported from 25 countries. The palms spotted in the brochure's photograph include Trachycarpus. Jubaea, Washingtonia robusta and Phoenix dactylifera but I wonder what other treasures are to be found there?

Hope you received my membership.
Dick Endt, Oratia, New Zealand

...And Orlando

I recently holidayed in Orlando, Florida with the family and visited the main theme parks (Disney, etc.) all of which have good collections of palms. The 'Epcot Centre' is particularly well landscaped with many fine specimens of Butia capitata, Phoenix reclinata and P. roebelenii (these mainly in large tubs in shady areas). The 'China' section is wonderful with a number of varying-sized Trachycarpus fortunei growing in large tubs. While there we had one or two days free and I had been told of the existence of a botanic garden in the Orlando central area. After taking a few wrong turns we eventually found 'Lev Gardens' and after paying a minimal admission fee (which made a welcome change) we spent a relaxing few hours ambling around what had once been a private garden. There is a relatively small conservatory containing several species of the more tender palms (Licuala, Aiphanes, etc.) together with many other interesting tropical plants.

The outdoor garden contains numerous species with particularly good examples of Chamaedorea. Neodypsis is also well represented. The Cycad garden contains a good collection of plants and I would recommend a visit to these gardens if you are staying in this area of Florida.

I would add that on the morning we visited, there were few other visitors, which made a peaceful change to the hustle and bustle and queuing in the Disney theme parks.
John Woodhead, Whitby, N. Yorks

...And, Finally, Madeira

I would like to tell you about the island of Madeira where I recently spent a holiday. It is some 700 km west of Casablanca and is a lovely island, surrounded by the Atlantic and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. It's an island of sunshine, beautiful flowers and spectacular scenery, reputed to have been founded by the Portuguese explorer Joao Zarco in 1419. Legend, however, claims the discovery for an Englishman, Robert Machim, and his mistress who were shipwrecked there in 1346.

A strong English influence was brought about by Henry Veitch, the British Consul in 1809. He was a member of that Devon family who in fact established the most important nineteenth century nursery in Britain. The great gardens of Madeira are established around Funchal, many with an English connection. It is said they have grown rather than being created.

From the air, the island is lush, green and colourful - breathtaking. A truly inspiring sight, which is even more enchanting when one comes out of the small approach tunnel at the side of the airport terminal. The following is an indication of the types of exotics which you come across when travelling around this extraordinary island: the Peruvian Magic Tree - Cantua buxifolia, various coral trees - Erythrinas, the King Protea from South Africa - Protea cyanoides, the Africa Tulip Tree Spathodia campanulata, Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia regina, Jacaranda ovalifolia, Dracaena draco, Nolina recurvata (Beaucarnea) and of course many others. The following are examples of the palms dotted around here and there: Brahea armata, Howea belmoreana, Arecastrum romanzoffianum - Queen Palm, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, Phoenix dactylifera, Washingtonia filifera.

The whole area around Funchal contains stunning specimen Tree Ferns some up to 30 feet tall. Ancient cycads are found in the park, along with Dasilyrions. Finally, Agave attenuata with its huge swan neck flowers exists all over the island. Many of these plants are labelled with information including the country of origin. The Madeirans take the time and trouble to do this for the benefit of everyone. This is a special and unique island, and I would highly recommended it to anyone who loves plants and flowers.
David Hutchinson, Nantwich, Cheshire.

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