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Carlo Morici's article 'Paschalococos and the Disappearing Palms'
prompted me to share a conversation I had on the same subject. During
my recent trip to Chile, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr.Juan Grau,
a specialist in asthma, who at the age of 84 is still practising.
Apart from this he is an expert in a number of fields including
palms, pollution, semi-precious stones, the language of Easter Island,
and the chinchilla, which he was instrumental in saving from extinction.
We had a long conversation about palms in general and then about
Jubaea chilensis. He is of the opinion, which he told me is now
shared by most historian-botanists, that the palm which is now extinct
on Easter Island is not a 'new' species but is identical with Jubaea
itself. The populations there were probably cut down many years
ago by the natives who used the trunks as huge rollers to move the
famous statues from quarry to final standing place. He has had 4
mature Jubaeas flown there (courtesy of the Chilean Air Force) and
re-planted in the soil of Easter Island, along with, some years
previously, 100 seedlings which were distributed and planted around
the island itself. Perhaps one day Easter Island will boast its
original number of these wonderful palms.
Martyn Graham, 123 Benhill Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 3SB, U.K.
I found the article "Conservation Through Cultivation"
veryinteresting as it highlighted the possibility for palm enthusiasts
to help keep a wide palm gene pool. An underlying premise of the
article is the need for palms to be more widely planted. Part of
the reason why more hardy palms are not planted is that most people
think they won't survive cold conditions. This misconception is
made worse when many reputable gardening books contain defective
information. For example, my recent edition of the RHS A-Z Encyclopaedia
of Garden Plants gives the following information:
1. Butia capitata - half hardy to frost tender - minimum 5-10°
2. Chamaerops humilis - Half hardy - minimum 0°C.
3. Phoenix canariensis - Minimum 16°C.
Perhaps the only way we can counter the inaccurate underestimate
of the hardiness of many palms is to show the general public what
the truth is; as they say, "seeing is believing." In the
U.K., a few enlightened local Councils have planted a modest number
of hardy palms. If members could donate the odd palm each, we could
create some model palm beds in municipal gardens in the larger cities
of Europe. By posting the locations of these plantings on the EPS
website, people could easily locate the nearest municipal garden
containing these palms.
Depending upon the hardiness of the palms, naturalised groves of
endangered species could be planted in appropriate climates. Once
again, public gardens could be used.
If other members write in showing their willingness to donate palms
or time to plant them, perhaps the viability of the idea can be
More Interesting Gardens of Tenerife
Carol and Alan Hawes
It was interesting for us to read Michael Carter's recent article
on the splendid palms and other exotic plants that can be seen in
the northeast of Tenerife, around Puerto de la Cruz. We, too, visited
the area in 1999, in March and in November, and were thrilled at
the variety of plants to view.
In the Botanic Gardens at Puerto we counted over one hundred different
palm species, many of them semi- or fully mature specimens. At 40
pence a visit, this must be the best value on the island! There
is a small "outpost" of this garden a few miles away,
in the beautiful town of La Orotava, with more fine palms, treeferns,
and exotic under-plantings.
Perhaps even more exciting, palm-wise, was our visit to a smaller
garden, the "Jardin Las Tosquillas," situated about half-way
between Puerto and the old capital of the island, La Laguna. Begun
in 1957, this garden is devoted almost exclusively to palms and
Tillandsias (air plants). Finding this amazing garden is worth the
effort, as the collection of palms is outstandingly beautiful and
well-labeled. It was stunning to wander between fruiting Hedyscepes
and Howeas or sit on a terrace shaded by dozens of Washingtonias!
There were many medium-sized specimens of Sabals, Braheas, and Bismarckias,
and some fine cycads. We also saw hundreds of Tillandsias, some
growing on nets shading the palms, and bought one as a souvenir.
(This is now thriving on the trunk of our largest Trachycarpus).
Fine palms can also be found in two other beautiful gardens in or
near Puerto. A free coach or taxi will take you the short distance
to "La Bananera," where you will learn about banana production
on the island. After this, you can wander through the interesting
gardens where you can see coffee, cacao, kapok, papaya, and custard
apple trees planted among Strelitzias, Aloes, Agaves and cacti,
as well as many of the indigenous species of the island. A free
banana liquor and Strelitzia flower are included in the price!
"Sitio Litre" is one of the oldest houses on the island,
and is now surrounded by the suburbs of Puerto. Its garden has a
lovely display of orchids and a wide range of sub-tropical plants.
It's a peaceful place to sit and sip a reviving drink while admiring
a huge "dragon tree."
During our second stay on the island we visited Icod de las Vinos,
to the east of Puerto, where there is a huge and ancient Dracena
draco, around which a botanical garden dedicated to the island's
indigenous plants has recently been created These plants have their
own beauty and can easily be seen in the wild while driving or walking
around the island, which has a varied and spectacular landscape.
Tenerife truly is a paradise for lovers of sub-tropical plants,
and we try to evoke its atmosphere in our own south-coast garden,
which is open by appointment for the NGS. Do come and see us!
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