Letters

Colourful Kentia
As a member of the European Palm Society, I hope you can answer one of my questions. I became a 'palm-fan' when when I did my studies at the University in Jena, GDR. At the moment I've got a collection of 55 palms, with some very rare species among them.
But my question relates to a well known palm, the Kentia palm, Howea forsteriana. I received this palm from another palm enthusiast who told me it's Laccospadix australasica but in my opinion it is Howea forsteriana It resembles it exactly except for one difference: the stem is rusty coloured, and the emerging leaf is dark red. Most 'Kentias' I have seen have green stems and green emerging leaves. But in some plant shops I have sometimes seen the red kind and the green kind together in the same pot. So my question is this: Are there two kinds of Howea forsteriana? Where did they come from and why are they red. Or is it really Laccospadix australasica? Or even a completely different species? I hope you or one of your readers can answer the question, perhaps I am not the only one to have made this observation.
Jörg Schumann, Röhrsdorf, Germany

Actually Howea and Laccospadix are closely related. Young plants of Laccospadix are best identified by their more compact stature with shorter petioles and the more finely divided, rather glossy leaves with softer texture compared with Howea Both Laccospadix and Howea forsteriana and a good number of other palms such as Geonoma, Pholidostachys Chambeyronia, Archontophoenix Pinanga etc. may produce reddish new leaves. While in Laccospadix this feature is quite common, in Howea forsteriana one only occasionally finds a palm with this characteristic which is only present in young plants and is lost with age. The reason is simply a genetic variation and like all regular H. forsteriana, these plants originate from Lord Howe Island off the east coast of Australia. The rusty coloured leafstalks would be typical for this particular form of H. forsteriana, so I believe your identification was correct. To be sure however, I suggest you send in a photo. T.S.

More On Suckering Chamaerops
I reply to 'Propagating Chamaerops from Suckers', on the Letters page of Chamaerops issue 24. I've always had the urge to propagate anything exotic by whatever means available. So I've tried all sorts of experiments, mostly unsuccessful, but I've had the odd success. The main problem that I've had recently, is with propagating palms from fresh, personally collected seed, as opposed to catalogue bought seed. I expected to get about a 10% success rate but actually achieved over 90%. This resulted in 107 Phoenix canariensis, 89 Phoenix roebelenii and 67 Washingtonia robusta seedlings, most of which were unsaleable until 3 years old. I currently have self sown Dicksonia squarrosa seedlings growing in the palm pots. They seem to like the overhead irrigation system in the outer unheated conservatory. I am always looking to increase my palm collection, although now mainly with the more hardy types that can be planted out, in a north west Kent garden.
In June 1993 my family accompanied me to the Palm Centre at Richmond to purchase my birthday present. I'm not allowed to go on my own, after coming home on several occasions with a car load of palms. It's not the price of the palms that causes the objections, but the cost of continually extending the conservatory, and needing a machete. to get through it. After the obligatory hour of telling the children not to touch, or run through Martin Gibbons' palm paradise, I finally chose a 4 ft (120cm) Butia capitata and a reasonable sized clump of Chamaerops humilis The Butia was planted out in spring 1994, and has sailed through the cold winters of 1995/96 and the even colder, windier 1996/97.
In early July 1993 the Chamaerops just seemed to have too many suckers for me to resist an attempt at propagation. I counted over forty, with the base of the larger ones being about 2" (5cm) in diameter. It seemed to be a cheap way of propagating Chamaerops, as the suckers were about the size of 3 year old seed grown palms. Not having removed palm suckers before, I was not sure how to go about it. I decided to just bend them downwards until they broke free This was easier said than done! The vicious teeth on the petioles were a major problem even with stout, hide gardening gloves. Eventually I managed to detach 24 of the larger suckers, but it took over 4 hours, and I was a bit alarmed at the lack of plant material. that came away with the sucker. They were cleaned up, the outer leaves removed, dipped in hormone rooting liquid and potted deeply in 2 litre extra deep shrub pots in a coir/bark/grit mixture. Initially plastic bags were put over them to conserve moisture, but it became apparent that this would cause problems with rotting, so they were removed. The pots were left in a shady place in the garden for the remaining summer and autumn. In late autumn they were moved into the conservatory.
By the following spring (1994) 6 of the smaller ones had succumbed. The rest were consigned to the south facing patio. In late summer 1994 there was no sign of growth in any of the surviving palms. A test was carried out by removing the compost from one palm - no roots were evident after 14 months, although the top was still firm and green, so they were surviving just. On closer examination the base of the sucker was starting to rot. All suckers were removed from their pots, inspected, cleaned up by cutting out any rot and stood in a bucket of Benlate fungicide (now withdrawn from sale) for 24 hours, A further inspection revealed that 7 suckers were beyond any hope, which left 11 of he original 24 with no roots, 14 months later, The survivors were repotted in the same, disinfected, pots but, this time in a SO/SO coarse grit/peat mixture. I have stopped using coir altogether now, everything seems to rot in it. The particles seem too fine, leading to compacting and lack of oxygen.
Another year passed, late summer 1995, now down to 7 survivors - still no sign of top grown, but a huge root appeared out of the pot of one of the smaller palms, followed a couple of months later by a very small spear. To date, January 1997, I have 6 surviving Chamaerops out of the original 24 suckers taken. One is a reasonable size now, although still smaller than it was when taken from the parent plant. The other five are all much smaller, about the size of an 18 month seed grown palm; even though they were at about a 3 year size, 3 1/2 years ago. The only thing in their favour at the moment is, boy are they hardy! They are looking fine even after being frozen in their 2 litre pots for over 2 weeks In conclusion my experiment worked -Chamaerops can be grown from suckers, but the failure rate in lost suckers is high, and seed raised palms would have been bigger if sown when the suckers were taken. All in all, the best way to propagate Chamaerops is the seed method, or to buy them already grown.
Dave Brown, Kent. By email.

Seedling Update
I thought it was about time I wrote an update about how the seedlings in my article in Chamaerops 25 are progressing. The short answer is - magnificently! Last winter I was able to maintain an average low temperature of +4ūC. The extreme minimum temperature in the greenhouse was 0ūC which occurred only twice when the outside temperature hit -5ūC
The fairly high average minimum of 4ūC wasn't due to a top-of-the-range heating or insulation system, but to the fact that on the whole, the winter was quite mild here in Doncaster. Indeed since the end of January there were only about 3 occasions when there was a frost. I gauge frost by whether it appears on car windscreens. There may have been a couple of other occasions when a slight ground frost was present. Thus weather-wise, at least for us, it was a good winter, and this was reflected in the success I had with the palm seedlings, especially the Washingtonias which are notoriously difficult to maintain as healthy specimens in our winters, even large plants. I have about 90 Washingtonias now. I lost about 3 or 4 small seedlings, due to overwatering I believe. As an experiment I kept about 15 Washingtonias on a south facing kitchen window sill all winter. These seedlings are much more advanced than their greenhouse-grown counterparts. They have put out their second leaves, with a third not far off. The greenhouse ones have yet to put up their second leaves.
Success was also had with Phoenix canariensis, P. dactylifera, and Chamaerops humilis I now have about 2025 of each, all with small first leaves. Again, I lost a few of each due to to excessive watering. I was able to answer my own question posed at the end of 'Roots 'n' Shoots' in issue number 25 regarding the initial white shoot which emerges from the seed and its relationship to the first leaf. I carefully removed from the soil, a seedling Phoenix dactylifera which was sown a year ago and now has three leaves. It appears that the initial shoot swells about half way down its length, and from this swelling emerges the first leaf (eophyll) which pushes upwards whilst the white shoot continues to push downwards and eventually, at its tip, the first fine roots appear. This 'remote germination' also holds true for P. canariensis and Chamaerops
I have sown other seeds. On the 25th November 1996 I sowed 11 Rhopalostylis sapida (the Nikau palm, seeds from Inge Hoffmann). To date, only one has germinated. The remaining seeds appear to be healthy and I am hopeful that they will sprout in due course. Also I have just received 24 Trachycarpus fortunei, I've sown them in the greenhouse.
One species I had no joy with was the infamous Jubaea chilensis I received 10 in November last year, and acting on advice from other growers, began the delicate task of cracking the outer seed coat. Not easy! If hit too hard, the whole seed breaks in two or it splits along with the kernel inside. I only succeeded with one! It is potted up but shows no sign of germinating yet. Not wanting to waste the other broken seeds, I ate them. Very tasty indeed, just like little coconuts.
I am currently waiting for delivery of several other palm seeds: Archontophoenix, Livistona australis, Dypsis decipiens, Syagrus, Chamaedorea radicalis and Trachycarpus wagnerianus The greenhouse was filled with other, larger, palms and larger seedlings, all of which came through with no, damage. With the warm weather of March, I put out all these into the garden. they seemed to respond to this quite well and growth was soon apparent, particularly the Washingtonias. I would welcome letters from readers who have had success with their palms outside, especially in a climate like ours in N. Yorkshire. I will write a further update at the (...?)

 

  06-12-19 - 15:23GMT
 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'
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This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...