Paradise for Palm Enthusiasts

By Mark Scholtes, Pieterstraat 21, 6372 AR Landgraaf, The Netherlands
Chamaerops No. 50 - published online 31-01-2005

Left: Coconuts, royals and scew pines at the far end of the garden where it merges into a mangrove swamp.
Right: A couple of ancient and heavily branching Dioon.
Photos by Mark Scholtes

In April this year, we flew to Miami to visit my brother in law for two weeks. Miami is filled with tropical vegetation and the first plants I saw when we came out the airport were, of course, palm trees. In fact, palms are probably the plants most frequently used here in landscaping. In many places you can see mass plantings of palms, a magnificent sight. Most frequently used for this purpose were Roystonea, Sabal palmetto, Cocos nucifera, Washingtonia, Bismarckia nobilis, Phoenix, and a few others. Palms with a height of 5 meter and more were used in many places for instant landscaping and we even saw some lying on large trucks, being transported to their planting site.

On the third day of our visit we went to Fairchild Tropical Gardens. This place is paradise for palm enthusiasts. The moment you enter the garden the views are magnificent. Everywhere you look there are palm trees, between them borders with many other exotic plants such as Agave, Yucca, cacti, bananas and cycads, mostly planted together in well-planned groups. Underneath some palm groves you can find other exotics with magnificent flowers on them. A little train runs trough the garden for those who are tired of walking, the gardens are quite large. For about 40 minutes, the train driver gives an overview of the garden and its plants. For everyone visiting Miami, Fairchild Tropical Gardens is an absolute must. Pictures from this garden can look good but walking between all these palms and other exotic plants yourself is just fantastic.

One day when we were sightseeing, we saw a sign that pointed to palms for sale. We stopped and entered a big garden with lots off palms in it. After a few minutes the owner came out of the house and asked me what palm I was looking for. I told him that I was from Holland and I was looking for a Rhapis excelsa for my brother in law but he did not have that one in stock unfortunately. We talked about palms a little and he was very interested in the palms we try outside in Holland. Most off his palms were tropical and he showed me how fast a Roystonea elata could grow here. He had a very old specimen in his garden that had to be more than 60 years old and was there before he built his house and nursery. The rings on the trunk were only 4 or 5cm apart from each other. Another Roystonea elata, next to the tall one, he had planted him self about 15 years ago. Here, the rings on the trunk were about 15 to 18cm apart. The difference was made possible by lots of fertilizer and water. When you knocked on the stem it was like knocking on a melon, full off water, while the stem from the old tree sounded hard and full, like real wood.

During my holiday I collected a lot of palm seeds from various trees to take them back home with me to Holland. In the driveway next to the house were we stayed grew a huge Washingtonia. The seeds were all around the palm and every morning new fresh seeds were on the pavement. I collected about 100 seeds to take home and some of them I just put in a pot and watered them every day. 8 days later we went home and one week later my brother in law called me and told me the seeds were spouting. When I came home I soaked the seeds in water for 3 days and planted them. 24 days later the first one sprouted and now mine have two leaves while those in Miami already have three or four. From the rest off the seeds that I took home, only one has sprouted so far ( Sabal palmetto). I guess in Holland palms and palm seeds take a lot longer to sprout and grow big than in tropical Miami, but on the other hand my Trachycarpus fortunei looks much happier in our cool climate then the one I saw in Fairchild Tropical Gardens.


  02-02-23 - 11:31GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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 Date: 24-05-2004
Chamaerops 48
has been published in the Members Area.
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 Date: 25-01-2001
'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...