Join Steve on a whistle stop tour of some of the
biggest denizens of the palm world. They're big, they're bold, they're
beautiful AND they're cold hardy. Every garden should have one.
Steve Swinscoe, Manatte, 32460, Le Houga, France
Chamaerops No.28 Autumn 1997
Jubaea chilensis in San Diego, USA
The truth is out! Now that Martin has put it down
in black and white I can't deny it. I do have a thing about Jubaea
but then, permit me to explain. Prior to moving to Gascony in southwestern
France 20 years ago I grew coconut palms in my garden in Hollywood
(Florida, that is, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale - even in California
coconut palms won't grow). Since then I've grown Trachycarpus in
the land of musketeers while dreaming nostalgically about my beloved
Back in 1985, when most of Europe experienced the
winter of the century, southwestern France was no exception. As
an example, at that time I had 8 Trachycarpus and when temperatures
dipped down to -18û I lost 4 of them. I had often admired Phoenix
palms growing in the Basque town of Hendaye, on the French/Spanish
border, 90 miles due southwest of my home. When spring rolled around
I went to see how the palms had fared. All the fronds of all the
Phoenix were burned and brown and they looked quite dead (the good
news was that they all survived and continue to flourish, despite
temperatures down to -13û that terrible winter) But . . . I came
across a majestic palm planted in a place of honor in the middle
of a roundabout, facing the old casino on the beach.
This palm was as green and beautiful as if it had
spent the winter in the tropics. What could it be? I had to find
out. I bought myself a copy of McCurrach's now out of print classic,
Palms of the World, and sure enough, there it was, Jubaea spectabilis,
as it used to be called, reputedly the most cold hardy of all the
feather-leaved palms. I had to find out more and my quest to learn
everything I can about Jubaea continues. To add to its mystique
the French call the Jubaea "cocotier du Chili" (coconut
palm of Chile) and the seeds really are miniature coconuts. The
best part is I can grow them outdoors in Gascony!
Now it's one thing to read about palms but it's even
better to go see them where they grow and in the last 10 years I've
made some great trips scouting for Jubaea I've seen and photographed
them all over France, from Brittany to Basque country and all along
the Mediterranean, from the Spanish to the Italian borders. I've
seen them in England, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland, and
also in California, where I lived as a teenager. I invite you to
come with me on a tour of some exceptional specimens.
What is the tallest plant growing under glass anywhere
in the world? You guessed it, an impressive specimen of Jubaea growing
in the temperate house at Kew, in the London suburbs. Originally
planted in the palm house, it was moved twice, the last time in
1938 when it weighed 54 tons. It flowers and sets viable seed annually.
The only problem is the fronds now touch the top of the greenhouse
at over 18 meters. Perhaps an opening should be made in the glass
so it can pop its palmy head through and brave London's winters.
Any other suggestions? Back in 1986 the Queen herself planted a
young Jubaea across the walkway from the venerable ancestor, planning
for the future! Note also that two small Jubaeas have been planted
a meter apart outdoors at one of the entrances to the palm house.
Rendezvous in 100 years to see how they will have fared.
Seeing palms under glass is nice but they can't compare
with others grown outdoors. One, or is it two impressive Jubaeas
grow outdoors in a garden in Torquay, in south west England. They
have a curious, upright habit of growth, where the fronds form a
sort of feather duster top, as opposed to most specimens that have
a full head of fronds drooping right down to the trunk. Both of
these forms (varieties?) are to be seen in the wild in Chile.
Here in France Jubaea was planted widely over a century
ago, only to be almost forgotten when Phoenix canariensis was introduced,
whose rapid growth accompanied by early and profuse seed production
made it the preferred feather-leaved palm of nurserymen. The famous
French botanist Charles Naudin, the "father" of Jubaea
in France, imported seeds from Chile almost 140 years ago and encouraged
plant lovers at that time, through his articles in "La Revue
Horticole", to plant this species which he predicted would
one day be the king of palms in France. Jubaea palms, with their
massive, clean, straight trunks, are definitely regal. The gardens
of the Villa Thuret in Antibes boast over 10 specimens of different
sizes, among the most beautiful I've ever seen and believe me, I've
The Ecole Nationale Supeneure d'Agriculture in Montpellier
also boasts 10 Jubaea, which have resisted temperature drops as
low as -16ûC on several occasions, more proof that these are special
palms. Perhaps the most exceptional plantation in France is at the
Domaine de La Fosseille, near Perpignan, where a row of 7 palms
grow, all perfect and loaded with fruit. Elsewhere in France adult
specimens grow near the coasts of Brittany and in the southwest,
in Biarritz and also 80 km from the Atlantic in Bearn, facing the
Pyrenees, where they must feel right at home remembering the Andes
their ancestors gazed upon.
I've admired Jubaea growing in public and private
gardens in Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal and in Italy, in the cities
of San Remo, Genoa and Montecatini in Tuscany. I learned recently
that 2 grow in the botanical garden of Pisa, another claim to fame
besides the leaning tower and I understand it gets quite cold in
Pisa. Perhaps the tallest specimen in Europe grows on the island
of Isola Madre in Lake Maggiore. A well-documented palm, the seed
was planted in 1858 and by 1901 the palm measured 10 m. and in turn
bore its first crop of seeds, a gorgeous specimen I have yet to
see in person.
Jubaeas are grown in gardens in Spain as well, including
those of Blanès and Malaga. The botanical garden of La Orotava
in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands, has an ancient Jubaea
this is the only place I know where both Jubaea and Cocos nucifera
thrive, but that's another story.
When you think of Switzerland you probably picture
mountains covered with snow, right? How about palm trees with a
spectacular backdrop of snow-capped mountains? Locarno is the place
and it abounds in palms, especially Trachycarpus with clean trunks,
but also Brabea, Butia and, of course, Jubaea. Hats off to the city
of Locarno that spent a fortune in 1989 to move a Jubaea 50 m. to
create a parking lot (see Chamaerops, July 1992. That transplantation
was a success and the Jubaea thrives in its new location.
Leave it to my fellow American to do things in a big
way! In San Diego, California, the city, with encouragement from
members of the Southern California Palm Society, has planted a Jubaea
jungle. It looks like they purchased e v e r y Jubaea they could
get their hands on and planted 36 in all, from less than 2 m. in
height to over 4 m.. The oldest are bearing fruit and I could just
touch the seeds on their infuctesences, the promise of future Jubaeas
and more palm gardens. This is probably the most massive planting
of Jubaea in one place outside of Chile.
The relative rarity of Jubaea combined with its many
qualities, only add to its desirability. Last year the French association,
Fous de Palmiers, launched a campaign to plant Jubaea We encourage
all palm fans, as Charles Naudin did over 100 years ago, to plant
Jubaea Each palm is a spectacular, living monument and a testimonial
to future generations of our love for palms.
Steve Swinscoe is President of the "Fous de
02-02-23 - 12:15GMT
|| What's New?
|| New palm book
| Date: 24-05-2004
of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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| Date: 24-05-2004
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by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...