Field Notes On The Nikau

(page 2)

As far as reproduction is concerned, plants in the North seem not to observe the seasons saw panicles at all stages of development from still being sheathed, through flowering to bearing ripe red berries. Berries are abundant, falling to the ground at the base of the trunk or the flesh eaten and the seed dropped by birds. Either way the seeds don't travel far and hence the Nikau often lives in groves. Plants with their crowns in sun reproduce the most, and can have three panicles at different stages of development at once.

The Nikau will grow exposed to sea winds on the west coast, but gets severely tattered. This does not seem to be a problem to them as they grow, fruit and regenerate (where grazing pressure allows) freely despite looking an awful mess. Most specimens in New Zealand gardens are tatty and yellow, because they are in direct sun, with dry soil and wind exposure. They also look tattered at their altitudinal limit of around 500 metres in the Coromandel Ranges, where there is at least some frost in the winter.

Unfortunately they are not very hardy in the European sense, and, to grow good specimens in Britain means pampering them in a warm greenhouse. My six plants are OK outside in Cambridge all year except in frost, but each new leaf is then barely bigger that the previous one. Warm indoor nights in particular result in noticeably freer growth.

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