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A Short Guide to Collecting Tree Fern Spore

Virtually all tree ferns produce spore, but not all ferns produce spore. Tree ferns are fairly easily raised from spore. It is imperative, however, that the spores are fresh, so I would like to offer some insight into collecting tree fern spore. First you have to know when to collect the spore. You will require a magnifying glass to study the spore, which is generally found on the underside of the fronds. Totally green spores are generally not ready. If the sporangia (the miniature sacks or capsules that contain the spore) are brown in color and some of the sporangia appear fuzzy under the magnifying glass, this is the time to remove it.
Pick the frond, or that part where the sporangia are, and place the frond on a clean, white piece of paper and store in a warm, dry place for a day or two. After this you will notice light brown dust called chaff, and a very fine dust, which is the spore. If you gently tilt the paper from side to side you will notice that the lighter chaff will approach the edge of the paper first. Remove this chaff and you will be left with the spore.. In the case of most Cyathea, the spore is dark brown, and in the case of Dicksonia, a pale yellow color. Carefully place this in an envelope and seal from the outside. Do not place the spore directly onto plastic, as the static will cause the spore to adhere to it and make removal difficult; as such, if you only have a small quantity of spore, it may very well be lost completely. Store in a cool dry place.
Peter Strong

Eating Palms

While on holiday in France recently I saw some hearts of palms in tins displayed on a supermarket shelf among the tins of beans and peas. Always willing to try anything new, I bought a tin to share with my group of young people. There was no clue as to the species of palm, except that it came from South America, but the verdict of the youngsters and myself after tasking some was that a mass extinction of the species through eating was not likely. The palm hearts looked like some tough and yellowing slices of leek and they tasted similarly to those that might be years past their sell-by date.
As this story of our palm eating spread around, I was told of a Cornish farmer whose family regularly eats the hearts of Cordyline australis as a vegetable. After having offered some to a local restaurant, whose customers found it to be delicious, this farmer is considering growing them as a food crop. From the windows of our house, I can see dozens of Cordylines and I am tempted to see what they are like to eat. I am concerned that we may like them too much, however, and that all we may see is dozens of bare trunks. Is this why the Australians sometimes call them "Cabbage Palms"?
Yours Sincerely, Rev. Geoffrey Squire

Their edible bud is indeed why Cordyline australis are called "Cabbage Palms". In many countries in South America, palms are now farmed for the production of palm hearts. Depending on the species and the canning process, the quality of palm hearts can vary considerably. The best palm heart in South America is said to be produced by Euterpe and Prestoea ssp. but Bactris gasipaes is frequently seen in farms as well as it is extremely fast growing. T.S.

Readers Comments:

On 6-6-2001 Lee Mullen wrote:
Geoffrey Squire:
Geoffrey wrote this: In various parts of the Westcountry, Phormium, Osteospermum, Arum Lilies, Agapanthus, Mesembryantheum, Carpobrotus edulis, and a few Cordyline australis are growing completely wild, as escapees from cultivation, and there is at least one place where Opuntia (Prickly Pear) cactus are growing on cliffs. Are these things connected with the seemingly unusual behavior of some species in cultivation, or are they quite normal? Some put it down to global warming, but I am rather skeptical. It was only 13 years ago, in February 1987, that the Southwest experienced its lowest temperatures since records began. Severe frost caused damage to or even killed outright things that had been growing for 100 years or more. I would enjoy hearing what others think.

Living in mild West Cornwall,i agree with what he is saying and I just put it down to the mild climate.
many exotics like Cordylines never stop growing down here,hence they become larger much stronder plants,flowering every year and even self seeding.
I am yet to see where opuntia is growing wild.I see a type of mesem growing with the Hottentot Fig around the Lizard area nearby and is a wonderful delight.

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  02-02-23 - 12:21GMT
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 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
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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...