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 29ûC (90ûF) every day, balmy and comfortable nights, and the
prospect of finding further populations of that mystery palm Medemia
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
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.
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.
23-05-22 - 01:45GMT
|| What's New?
|| New palm book
| Date: 24-05-2004
of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
|| New: Issue 48
| Date: 24-05-2004
has been published in the Members Area.
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|| Book List
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a look at our brand new Book List edited by Carolyn Strudwick
|| New Book
| Date: 25-01-2001
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...