Forum News Roundup

By Nigel Kembrey, 61 Naishcombe Hill, Wick, Bristol, BS30 5QS
Chamaerops No. 51 - published online 22-04-2005

A "clustering" Trachy at the Palm Centre in London.
Photo by Nigel Kembrey

The internet has become such a dynamic tool for researching information that I thought it would be a good idea to keep members up to date with the most interesting palm related tidbits from around the world.


the palm world seems to have been seized by waggie-mania, a strange compulsion that seems to drive every palm enthusiast to own one, two, three or even more of these beauties. Palms have sold like hotcakes, vast quantities of seed have been sold and in a few years–if they all grow–I think every house in Europe will have one!

In Germany, a group of enthusiasts led by Arnold Krueger have been experimenting with plant hormones and getting amazing results, such as Trachycarpus fortunei that grow at great speed with impressive root systems and large crowns. Surprisingly, some of this technology has been around for a long time. A product called Superthrive, largely overlooked by amateur growers but used in the nursery trade for years, is a must-have accessory for every palm nut, and will undoubtedly produce larger, healthier, more vigorous palms.

Chris Stuehrk, a partner in the Helgoland project, announced on the Hardy Palm and Subtropical board that he has been working on mapping Trachycarpus DNA for the various species and hopes to publish the results next year. That sounds like a really interesting subject and if Chris is reading this I hope the EPS journal will get a good article!


since the discovery of the new Trachycarpus species in the Naga Hills a year ago, it's all been rather quiet. Most people growing the new Trachycarpus seem to report a remarkably easy culture and a relatively fast growing seedling. My resourceful Belgian friend James Verhaegen has already had seedlings in the freezer for a few hours at a time, together with T. latisectus, T. martianus, T. fortunei and T. takil, and reports that T. latisectus and T. martianus emerge dead whereas the others do not. The new Trachycarpus is hardy, folks!


the news has been a bitterly cold winter of 2003/4 in the Pacific North West and three very damaging hurricanes in Florida. Who said growing palms was easy? The results from the Pacific North West were interesting, not least because they have had several extremely benign winters, which allowed less hardy palms to establish. The cold spell was as low as —12ÉC in places with snow and daytime temperatures below freezing. Winners were Trachycarpus fortunei , T. wagnerianus and T. takil emerging only with slight or no damage. Chamaerops humilis also fared well as, surprisingly, did Chameadorea microspadix and C. radicalis.

Trachycarpus martianus and latisectus were defoliated but in most cases recovered. Most disappointing were Jubaeas and Butias that suffered severe damage and in a lot of cases 100% leaf damage; even so, many have pushed out new growth and recovered. A lonesome Trachycarpus oreophilus did not put up much of a fight and died quite quickly after the freeze.


the hunt has been on for new palm species. Syagrus specialist Dr. Larry Noblick is rumoured to have found both a new trunking Butia species in southern Brazil and a clumping one. Gaston Torres Vera, an Argentinean palm enthusiast, has found 2 possible new Butia species in Paraguay, also both clumpers, one of which is incredibly beautiful. He describes that area as a Pandora's box for cold hardy palms, and I am sure more cold hardy species will be discovered in due course. I am told that Kew are investigating material from a new stoloniferous (clustering) Butia, so maybe one of these new species will soon be officially recognised.


what does Martin Gibbons have growing at the Palm Centre in the display garden? This picture of an apparently caespitose Trachycarpus recently popped up on the EPS forum. Is it the long lost Trachycarpus caespitosa? Is it a freak? Has somebody dropped a bucketful of seed? Your guess is as good as mine.

(I asked Martin about those plants, and this is his reply: "This is how rumours start!! PeterJenkins gave me a rubbish tray of mass planted Trachy fortunei to separate out or chuck. This is - or rather these are - the remains. I wanted to dump them, but one of our (over-)enthusiastic staff insisted on planting them".
I guess that solves that Mystery. I have yet to see a truly suckering Trachycarpus. All suspected cases I have seen (quite a few), have turned out to be nothing more than several individuals planted closely together. T.S.)


  02-02-23 - 12:09GMT
 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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Chamaerops 48
has been published in the Members Area.
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'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
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This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...