Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
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Late November and early December - proW ably the most
depressing time of the year, especially this year when winter seems
to have arrived so early. It's raining, cold and miserable, and,
worse, we know the weather will not improve much for 4 or 5 months.
Personally I like to spend as much time as I can out of the country,
and this year has been a good one for travelling. There was our
wonderful European Palm Society meeting in Rome in September, very
well attended, and much enjoyed by all. Tony King tells the story
later in this issue. Soon after that I had a couple of weeks in
Sri Lanka with my girlfriend. Not a palmy trip this one more a sun-and-sand-and-sea
kind of holiday really - though of course the odd palm did creep
into my field of vision.
Toby's and my main trip this year was to South America.
We flew to Rio and bought a jeep, then drove 10,000 kms (6000 miles)
through Brazil, into Argentina, up into Bolivia, back to Argentina,
then through Paraguay to Brazil again and back to Rio where we sold
the jeep and flew home.
Lest this should sound just so easy and just so much
fun, I should report that much of it was not fun. Brazil is such
an expensive country, we could only afford to buy a rather clapped-out
jeep with which we - perhaps predictably - experienced all manner
of problems. On day 2 a front wheel bearing shattered in a most
dramatic and dangerous fashion. Repairs cost several hundred dollars
and, worse, 3 days of twiddling our thumbs waiting for spares to
arrive from Rio. Next, we were sailing through the wonderful Argentinian
countryside when we blew a head gasket. More hundreds of dollars
and more wasted days - 5 in all - waiting for a replacement to arrive
from Buenos Aires. Then, a few days later, we noticed water dripping
from underneath the jeep and realized that the radiator had sprung
a leak. More repairs, though happily only half a day.
In addition to problems with the jeep, we had enormous
paperwork problems every time we crossed a border. And we crossed
lots. You see, it's rather unusual to do what we did, and the various
customs officers were not used to seeing a Brazilian registered
jeep driven by European tourists, and they were absolutely at a
loss to know what papers we should be carrying. At virtually every
border, we were initially told, 'You cannot leave/enter our country
because you don't have the right papers'. We found this alarming
the first time we heard it, and simply amusing the last. In every
case we were delayed (from 2 hours to 24 hours) while whispered
conversations were held and senior customs officers were consulted.
And every time we were allowed in/out after it was realized that
in fact we did have the proper papers.
OK, OK, I hear you say, wlsat about the palms? Well,
thex were of course quite woisderful, spectacular even, the main
difficulty bein~ that they are so spread out, we niight see one
population or species in the early morning and the next ones we
wanted to see were 400kms away and we wouldn't get to them until
the evening. We saw all S species of Trithrinax, one of my favourite
genera, and high on our hit list'. Everyone knows that the~' are
rather unfriendly. but some of the species have thick interlaced
spines half a metre long! 'We saw several species of Butia, Parajubaea
torallvi, and the recently described Parajtibaea sunkha. these two
both in Bolivia. Now THATS an interesting country, half of it extremely
mountainous, the other half absolutely flat. Nice people, beautiful
scenery, special palms.
We also saw several species of Syagrus (not my favourite
genus), and different Attaleas including A. humilis which doesn't
grow a trunk and whose bunclses of golf-ball sized frtiit simply
lay on the ground at the base of the tree, begging to be collected.
The most common palm we saw was undoubtedly Copernicia alba. You
can drive for hours (we did) and see nothing else. Many were growing
in pastures inundated with water, which was lapping around their
trunks, indicating their tolerance of over-watering in cultivation.
In the city of Sucre we saw telegraph poles made from their trunks.
The prize for the most spectacular palm we saw would
have to go to Trithrinax campestris. Those who went to the EPS meeting
in either France or Rome will remeniber - sometimes painfully -
these amazing palms with their blue leaves as stiff as sheet metal,
and their truisks covered with a network of sharp spines. We saw
them growing in some numbers and many were in fruit, unfortunately
all green, so not worth collecting.
lt is a bit of shock to come back from all that to
England in November, dark, miserable and wet, but next spring promises
some exciting events to look forward to: Richard Darlow's Cornwall
Get-together and a chance to explore all those south-west gardens
that are mentioned so often in Chamaerops. Also in spring I will
be leading a tour group of about 12 people to north-east India to
see the different palms there. Both these events are advertised
later in this issue.
The other item that is advertised is the EPS lapel
badge which I hope all members will want to buy and wear. lt is
the best way to recognize other EPS members whether you are in Singapore
Botanic Gardens or shopping at your local supermarket.
Enjoy this issue, and roll on spring! M.G.
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10-07-20 - 18:40GMT
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