The Other European
Everyone has hopefully, by now, heard of
Phoenix theophrastii, one of the only two palms endemic to Europe.
In this article Dr. Esener describes a variant which may turn out
to be a new species of Phoenix. Enjoy the article, then turn to
the Letters Page to find out how you can own one.
Dr. R. Esener Samsun, Turkey
Chamaerops No. 20, published online 23-07-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Phoenix Gölköy, trunk blackened
and burnt during the fire of 1993.
Phoenix theophrastii was described by the Swiss
botanist Dr Werner Greuter in 1967, from the grove at Val in Crete.
Greuter noted that the 'Cretan Date Palm' had been known since Classical
times, when it was recorded in the writings of Theophrastus (Greek
botanist-philosopher) so he named the new palm in his honour. It
is the only European palm other than Chamaerops humilis.
Natural stands of Phoenix theophrastii were discovered
in Turkey in 1982, in the south-west of the country in the Datca
Peninsula not far from the famous tourist town of Marmaris. Three
years later a second locality was recorded at Kumluca-Karaz in Finike
Bay about 250km away from the Datca site.
Recently a further new Phoenix population has been
reported by Prof. Boydak and Kew's Sasha Barrow at the Village of
Gölköy, north of Bodrum not far from Datca as the crow
The Phoenix population has been known to the inhabitants
of Gölköy for hundreds of years. In 1989 two Professors
of landscape architecture visited the Gölköy palm population
and considered it to be representative of P. theophrastii. In the
early summer of 1990 Boydak made the first of several trips to Gölköy
and he immediately noticed several distinct differences between
the Gölköy palms and P. theophrastii and P. dactylifera.
Since then samples of the palm have been sent to
the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (1990), and Royal Botanic Gardens,
Kew (1993). In the spring of 1994 Boydak from the University of
Istanbul and Sasha Barrow from Kew made a trip to the three natural
stands of Turkey's palms and collected further herbarium materials.
An excellent article about the Gölköy palm was written
by the two above mentioned authors, and appeared in Principes (July
Gölköy palm grove is not far away from
the town of Bodrum and easily reached by road. The area is under
pressure from the expansion of the village with new summer housing
and tourist facilities. Gölköy, meaning in Turkish "Lake
Village" is named after the lake that borders the palm grove
and village. A drainage trench surrounding the whole area is already
being built. Before the construction of the trench, the buggy ground
was completely flooded for several months of the year. Since the
construction of the drainage trench certain parts of the palm grove
are inundated with water for only 2-3 months annually. Fortunately
there are a lot of springs that feed the lake, so hopefully it is
not possible for the drainage ditch to dry out the bog completely.
In June 1993 a fire spread to a part of the Gölköy palm
grove. Although many palms suffered from burnt and blackened stumps
they recovered very well, even seeming to be more robust with new
suckers. I think this is similar to P. theophrastii. Now necessary
steps are taken to protect the area.
P. theophrastii is distinguished from P. dactylifera
by its upright fruit clusters and small inedible fruits, also it
has smaller, shorter and sharper leaves. The height of the Gölköy
palms is not more than 8m, on the other hand P. theophrastii at
Datca and Finike reach up to 17m. Gölköy fruit stalks
are 60-200cm long, whereas those of P. theophrastii rarely exceed
30cm, and they hold fruit marginally larger. At the moment it is
not clear if the Gölköy palm is a variety of P. theophrastii
or is a new species. Further and more complex studies will reveal
I have been involved with palms for almost three
years now, after joining the European Palm Society, and I have three
year old plants of Phoenix theophrastii and 2 year old plants of
Phoenix Gölköy in my nursery. Kycegiz, Bodrum and Datca
are all in Mugla Province which is famous for its wild orchids and
other classical Mediterranean flora. We have a very big farm here,
by the Dalaman International Airport. I hope in a few years' time
Mugla Province will have the first 'Temperate Palmetum' in Turkey,
at my garden. At the moment I am trying to prepare about 2000m2
for the palmetum, but it is very costly as the ground water table
is too high and there is a magnesium alkalinity problem in the soil
and in the underground water.
So far almost 50 kinds of palms and cycads are growing
in the nursery, some Washingtonias from seed (two and a half years
old) are already more than 2 meters in height. The arboretum is
going to be established by our "Special Environmental Protection
Department" with the financial help of the German Government,
who are building the roads and bridges and the irrigation scheme.
I hope one of the forthcoming European Palm Society
meetings can be held in Mugla and I will be pleased to assist the
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