The Sixth Meeting of the German Speaking Palm Enthusiasts in Germany

by Angela Müller, Körnergasse 44, D-98617 Helmershausen, Germany
Chamaerops No. 43-44, published online 05-08-2002

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Left:The dangerous guardians
Right: Coco-de-Mer "seedling" in the crocodile house

In 1996 the German speaking members of the EPS began what has become a tradition of yearly meetings. (Of course, all other members are welcome, too!) We decided that we wanted to learn about the most important and most famous German botanical gardens, and so began organizing meetings in the late spring or early summer at different places.

Our first three meetings took place at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt. The fourth meeting, in 1999, was at the Botanical Garden in Munich. Last year's meeting was at the Botanical Garden in Leipzig, and was especially interesting. Though the greenhouses were much smaller than in Frankfurt or Munich, we were able to hear very interesting reports about the activities of the University of Leipzig in the rainforests of Southern America and the research reports on palm chromosomes by Dr. Röser. In the late afternoon we were able to visit other greenhouses on the outskirts of Leipzig, which are not opened to the public.

This year's meeting was our sixth, and we chose the Wilhelma in Stuttgart, Stuttgart - Bad Cannstadt to be precise. About 30 members from all over Germany attended the May 12th meeting, which was perfectly organized by Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel. It was a very nice day with bright sunshine and a blue, cloudless sky--the perfect weather to visit our darlings, the palms, and of course, to take excellent photos.

At 10 o'clock all palm enthusiasts (with children and even a baby) met at the main entrance of the Wilhelma where Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel welcomed us. We got a first impression of the Wilhelma on the way to our room: besides a botanical garden, there is also a very, very nice zoo and some beautiful old buildings from the last century, too--absolutely recommendable! (One day is not enough! If anyone is interested, I know some addresses of hotels or campsites near the Wilhelma, which I would be happy to share via fax or e-mail.)

A very interesting report on the history of the Wilhelma was given by Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel. The Wilhelma has a very long tradition, and we were able to experience some of it through a lot of wonderful slides of the grounds and its plants in years gone by. The most interesting information was on the germination of Lodoicea maldivica (Coco-de-Mer). The germination in a big black waste container was a small sensation. On the front of the container was a small door for viewing the germination progress, and we could see all the steps on slides. Now you can visit the Lodoicea maldivica seedling in the greenhouse next to the crocodiles. These "dangerous" animals guard this very rare (especially in Europe) palm seedling. The first seed held by the Wilhelma was stolen, but luckily they got a new chance. The new seed, also luckily, even germinated (it is not always easy!) and you can see the seedling in the photo.

The next highlight was a film about Tobias Spanner and Martin Gibbons' rediscovery of Medemia Argun in the Nubian Desert in Sudan near the frontier to Egypt. This film was very exciting, as such an expedition is not only dangerous and strenuous, but also risky, as nobody knows if the palm will be found and whether the expedition will be a lost effort. Fortunately, they found a nice specimen of this palm given up for lost. Our thanks to Tobias, not only for the excellent film, but also for his interesting explanations.

Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel booked some tables for the EPS members in restaurant at the Wilhelma for lunch, so that we could all sit together and share our experiences. It was very amusing. After the lunch break, we divided into two groups that then changed. One group took a look behind the scenes at some of the other, non-public greenhouses designed for the cultivation of smaller plants. There we found lots of plants, not only palms, but also other very beautiful exotic plants like Acca sellowiana. The gardener answered all our questions with lots of patience, and, in turn, some of the members helped the gardener identify some of the palms. Everyone was happy.

The other group visited the public greenhouses, where we were able to see many of the plants that Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel talked about in the morning. It was here that we saw the Lodoicea maldivica – a dream with its bright green leaves! In the late afternoon, the EPS members again had the opportunity to share their experiences, as well as trade, buy, or sell seeds, palms, or palm books.

In conclusion, I would like to say thank you to the Wilhelma, and especially to Mrs. Dr. Lo-Kockel, for their help and good organization, and also to Tobias Spanner for his excellent film. I hope that perhaps we can meet in Jena in May next year!

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