Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre

As I sit here in freezing January, with some of Europe's coldest winter weather for years only just behind us, my mind drifts back to just a few short weeks ago, and, I think, the hottest Christmas I ve ever spent; three glorious weeks in the Nubian Desert of Sudan. Three weeks without one single cloud, with daytime temperatures of 29C (90F) every day, balmy and comfortable nights, and the prospect of finding further populations of that mystery palm Medemia argun.

Toby's and my first trip there was in 1995, something of a fool's errand we thought, since many other people more experienced and knowledgeable than us had grave fears that this ancient palm, the fruits of which have been found in tombs in Egyptian pyramids, was extinct, and the fact that it had not been seen for over 30 years, and then only one isolated specimen, tended to confirm this fear. However, luck was with us and after making the acquaintance of an old camel drover we drove with him, by jeep, into the desert where, as he had promised, we found our palms. In fact there were only about a dozen trees there, together with as many seedlings. Though the population was small, it appeared to be stable, and all in all it was a very exciting discovery, not quite the equivalent of seeing a pterodactyl on your bird-table, but not far off.

The old man who acted as our guide told us towards the end of the trip that he knew of a much bigger population, a million trees he said, though since he could neither read nor write we took this with a large pinch of salt. Anyway we agreed to return at some time in the future to investigate this and thus our journey over Christmas was planned. We set off north from Khartoum to the desert town of Abu Hamad where we met up, not with our friend from the previous year but with a colleague of his. This time we had two jeeps, two drivers and two co-driver/mechanics, as well as a German film crew who were to record the whole trip. It was as well that we had some spare seats as our guide insisted on bringing a friend of his along for the ride, and at the last minute we were told we would be accompanied by a member of the Secret Police (complete with regulation dark glasses) who would presumably keep an eye on us, since we intended to travel not far from the Egyptian border, something of a trouble spot. There were thus eleven of us in total.

Off we set into the desert, guided by Barbakir, who had an extraordinary sense of direction, and after it was dark, navigated by the stars. There were about a hundred million to choose from. To cut a long story short, we found our palms, perhaps not quite as many as we had been promised but a very satisfactory one thousand-odd mature trees, in three or four major populations. We were in and among them for two days, photographing, filming, measuring, collecting seeds and samples, and just generally admiring them. We were shown a natural well in a narrow valley, along the walls of which were (Neolithic?) rock drawings, including some of ostriches. now not known in the area, but perhaps ancient seed distributors of Medemia.

We drove back to Khartoum in triumph. there now being absolutely no doubt as to the ability of this palm to look after itself in the harsh and arid desert conditions. and with the question of its being extinct well and truly settled. The full story will be written up in due course.

Cornwall Trip

Richard Darlow, who is organising this excursion to visit some of Britain's best 'sub tropical' gardens, in the south west of the country, has had an excellent response, and is certainly the first person to charter a helicopter as part of a palm society trip! Among the places to be visited are Lamorran House, Trebah, the 'Lost Garden of Heligan', and Fox-Rosehill garden in Falmouth. The helicopter is to visit famous Tresco, on the Isles of Scilly. The dates are 19th to 23rd of May and it promises to be a wonderful trip. Richard would still like to hear from anyone else who may be interested, and to whom he will be happy to send the full itinerary. His phone number is 01226 291474 and if you're phoning from abroad, +44 1226 291474.

Northeast India Tour

I have just 2 places left for the EPS palm trip to North-east India, including Calcutta, Kalimpong, Sikkim, and Shillong in Meghalaya. The 10 day tour will begin on or about April 14th from London's Heathrow airport, and the cost is approximately £1200/10,6OOFF/3150DM per person, including all flights, all food, all accommodation and all transport. Please contact me as soon as you can at The Palm Centre by phone! fax/email if you would like more information.

EPS Summer Meeting, Spain

Later in this issue you will find full details about this year's summer meeting in the wonderful old town of Almuñé car, on Spain's southern coast. The get-together which is kindly being arranged by the Spanish 'Association of the Friends of Palms', will last 4 days, and involves a full and exciting programme. Almuñé car (or at least, nearby Malaga) is easily accessible by air, with frequent and inexpensive charter flights. Our French friends may even consider driving. As usual, all are welcome. and a fine time is guaranteed for all palm enthusiasts. Be there!

Gosh, all this activity, at the end of it all I'll need a good holiday to recover. Fortunately, I've one or two ideas... Enjoy this issue, MG.


  02-02-23 - 11:02GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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Chamaerops 48
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'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...