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Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre

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If Winter Come, Can Spring Be Far Behind?
I wonder who said that? Shakespeare probably. But I keep reciting it to myself during these dark days of winter in an effort to cheer myself up. My last editorial seems to have been rather portentous when I reminded myself and others that 'we still had a lot more weather to get through' before the end of winter. From what I understand from friends here and around the continent, it has been the most severe winter for many years and reports of losses are anticipated. How did you and your plants get on? Do write to Chamaerops and let me know.

I feel rather guilty in admitting that I missed all the bad weather by taking a trip to South America over Christmas with the aim of checking out the cold hardy palms there. As we were flying on Air Portugal we had the opportunity of a short stopover in Lisbon and in just 24 hours there we visited most of the places mentioned by Steve Swinscoe in his article in the Winter 93/94 edition of Chamaerops. It was great fun. Lisbon certainly has a benign climate and the variety of cold hardy and cool tolerant palms to be seen there bears this out. Among many, those worth a special mention are the Howeas and the Rhopalostylis, growing to perfection in the mild and moist climate. The are many gardens to visit, but apart from them, it is in any event a beautiful and old European city and well worth a look.

Then it was off to Venezuela where we spent a wonderful week, palm hunting at high altitude, and learning so much about, especially, Ceroxylons, which grow in the mountains there and at other locations in South America. I must pause here to mention a recently published book which we found incredibly useful in naming the palms that we found there. Written by Henderson, Galeano and Bernal and called "Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas", it covers every South American palm (both north and south) and provides a means of identifying them all by the use of descriptions, keys and colour photographs. The authors have made some dramatic changes in the naming of many species and have carried out a fair amount of 'lumping' (joining together 2 or more species under one name). For instance, Trithrinax acanthacoma and T. brasiliensis are now synonymous as the latter name, the number of Braheas have been significantly reduced, as have the number of Ceroxylons. Brahea berlanderi and B. bella have vanished; Ceroxylon andicola, C. klopstockia, C. hexandrum, C. utile, and others have also been sunk into synonymy. And at last, the genera Scheelea, Attalea, Parascheelea and Orbignya have all now 'become' Attalea, making life a lot easier in the process. Anyway, it's a very good and useful book, thoroughly recommended.

From Caracas we then flew to Quito, high altitude capital city of Ecuador. The very first thing you notice on leaving the airport is about 30 full size Parajubaea cocoides all in heavy fruit right outside, and then it gets better! We spent a couple of weeks zigzagging across the Andes mountains that run the length of the country, and found many of the palms we were looking for. Among the most exciting were several species of Ceroxylon, and also some Geonomas that grow at 3150m, the highest altitude for any palm. It is hoped that they will eventually find their way into cultivation. They would be perfect for the sheltered cool, moist European garden. All in all we had a great time and Ecuador is certainly one of the most palmy places on earth, and well worth a visit by any enthusiast of cold- and cool-tolerant palms. A great trip.

Volunteer Sought

Finally, I am looking for a volunteer! We badly want an index to 'Chamaerops'. It needs some keen and kind person to sit down, ideally with a PC, and go through every issue of our journal and create an index. If the idea appeals to you please give me a call and we can discuss in greater detail exactly what is required. The final result will be published in an up-coming issue, with full credits. It will be a lot of work, but I hope enjoyable too. MG.

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