Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
This is a special issue of Chamaerops in two ways.
To begin with, it is a double issue, an attempt to bring the publication
up to date after such a long delay. Second, for the first time ever,
the magazine is devoted entirely to one genus, Trachycarpus. Don't
worry, the name change is only temporary! Much of the information
published here appears for the first time in Chamaerops. Much of
it has appeared elsewhere, but this is the first time it has all
been published together in the European Palm Society journal, and
we hope that all members will appreciate the summary.
The Trachycarpus trail, which began with T. takil
and ended, albeit temporarily, with T. latisectus, is a long and
interesting one. The first step which was done by Wilko Karmelk
of Holland and myself, was into the north of central India to try
to shed light on a mystery that, it seemed, nobody else had exhibited
much interest in solving. What was this odd palm, misnamed by the
Americans for so long? Was there actually a real T. takil under
all the misnaming? What was the connection between T. takil and
T. martianus, the names seemingly used synonymously in the many
publications that we consulted before setting off? Well that puzzle
is well and truly solved though our friends in the States still
insist on misnaming T. wagnerianus as T. takil, despite us taking
every possible opportunity to explain the mistake to them. I am
happy to say that we regularly import seed, and that the genuine
T. takil is more and more widely available though regrettably, because
of its close botanic relationship with T. fortunei, it is likely
to inter-breed and its special characteristics will be lost.
The next species that beckoned was the diminutive
T. nanus of China. It took two trips there to find it, but find
it we did, Toby Spanner and I. It too, seems to be in danger, this
time from the many semi-wild goats that roam the area where it grows.
They eat the inflorescences before the plants, only about 60 or
80cm tall at maturity, have a chance to set seed. T. nanus that
are now growing in cultivation seem to perform poorly, grow very
slowly, and scarcely offer the opportunity to save the species from
Soon after those travels Toby and I were to find the
first of three new species of Trachycarpus. On perhaps the most
exciting trip of all, we discovered what we would name T. princeps
growing on steep cliff faces on the banks of the Salween River,
almost at the point where China, Burma and Tibet meet, a bit of
a political hot spot. An account of our first, abortive, effort
to reach the area (deep in China's 'forbidden territory') was not
even published in the official version reproduced here. How we found
ourselves climbing a 3500m mountain range, dodging Chinese border
guards and nearly getting ourselves arrested, before finally being
sent packing, was a real adventure in itself. The trees, alas, seem
doomed never to reach cultivation. The seed set is poor, the area
almost impossible to reach.
Not so with T. martianus, ridiculously rare in cultivation,
ridiculously common in the wild, like so many other palms. That
situation is changing fast, with hundreds of thousands of seeds
being traded every year and subsequent plants growing well and happily.
We found two major populations, one in northeast India and the other
in Nepal. Due to breathtakingly bad planning the latter produced
another 'adventure' if it could be called such, with Toby and I
walking for 20 hours in Nepal with scarcely a break. Almost dead
with fatigue, we staggered back to our 'hotel' for a few hours'
snatched sleep, only to be up to catch the bumpy bus that would
take us to the airport and home.
During our travels far and wide we came across two
more species, new to science: T. oreophilus and T. latisectus, in
Thailand and India respectively. Neither performs well in cultivation
while they are young. A hundred seedlings defoliated when they were
re-potted. It is fervently hoped that these teething troubles will
sort themselves out as the plants get older, the latter certainly
is a beautiful palm and well deserves a place in the garden.
Finally, T. wagnerianus, not (yet?) known in the wild,
but one of the best species. With its short stiff leaves, it is
more wild tolerant than any of the others, performs well and grows
fast, the only problem being a (hopefully temporary) shortage of
both seeds and plants.
There are many memories on the Trachycarpus trail, most happy, a
few sad. There are enough adventures to fill a book, which we have
been promising ourselves to write, for years. Alas, until there
are 8 days in the week and 48 hours in the day, it will remain a
dream for the time being. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this issue.
10-07-20 - 18:18GMT
|| 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.
|| Archive complete!
| Date: 03-12-2002
| All Chamaerops issues can now be found in the archive:
More than 350 articles are on-line!
|| Issues 13 to 16
| Date: 28-08-2002
| Chamaerops mags 13,
have been added to the members area. More than 250 articles are now online!
|| 42 as free pdf-file
| Date: 05-08-2002
Download! Chamaerops No. 42 can be downloaded for free to intruduce the new layout and size to
|| Issues 17 to 20
| Date: 23-07-2002
| Chamaerops mags 17,
have been added to the members area. Now 218 articles online!
|| Book List
| Date: 28-05-2001
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...