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Left: Musella in February
Middle: Musella in July
Right: Phoenix canariensis "Timaru", the original in New Zeeland.

Musella Pictures

I just wanted to share some pictures. My Musella plant goes through the winter as a bulblike, above ground structure. The two pictures were taken on the same plant. My Musella started to rest by mid January and woke up by mid June. These two pictures were taken in February (resting) and in July (growing). The minimum temperature this year was 10° C. Thus, the winter is quite warm (typically it is 12° C at night and 23° C during the day), but the Musella still detects the need to rest, maybe as a result of drought, wind, or day length.
Carlo Morici, Tenerife

Phoenix canariensis?

I thought you might be interested in this short tale of the Timaru Phoenix canariensis growing in my friend's back garden in Leigh on sea, Essex. It grows not down by the sea, but up on top of the cliffs where there is less influence from the sea, compared to where I live in neighbouring Westcliff on sea. This is one of the plants produced from the very first batch of seeds my father sent over from New Zealand in 1996. My friend kept it in its original pot for a little while as it was so small, but then thought what the heck and just stuck it out in the back garden in a east-facing border. It has had absolutely no protection whatsoever except the shrubbery around it, and it has grown to over three feet already. When it was planted it had only a couple of broad juvenile fronds. The only Timaru P.C. that I kept was from this original germination, and I only planted it out fully in the open last summer (2000). Obviously, having spent so long in a pot has limited its growth, as mine is only about one and a half feet tall.

Nevertheless, mine was given no protection this last winter, and had some very cold weather and snow with hard frost to put up with. This weather had no effect on it at all, nor on my friend's plant. I must admit that it is very nice to get feedback from people about their plants, especially when the feedback reinforces my belief that these P. canariensis palms are the hardiest of their kind to be found anywhere. It also appears that they are a variety that does not require lots of heat to put on good growth. It is interesting to think that these particular P. canariensis may be the purest line possible of this type as there are no other types of Phoenix grown in this part of New Zealand, making cross-pollination with another variety impossible. It is interesting also to wonder whether those early settlers in the 1850's actually collected the original P. canariensis seeds on route to their new homeland, when they called at Las Palmas for water and rations before the long, dangerous journey down the Atlantic, and then on to the new colony of New Zealand.
Charles Jackson, charles.jackson@onmail.co.uk

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