Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens

(page 2)

Scattered among the acres of lawn are individuals and group plantings of palms you will be familiar with. Most species of Phoenix are grouped together in one gene-crunching, traithomogenising mess. Both green and silver-blue versions of Butia capitata are on show - are they really the same species? When planted close to one another, they certainly don't look it. Trachycarpus is not happy here - they all tend to look as though dynamite has been used nearby. Newsflash: 4°C and 10% humidity are not conducive to Trachycarpus' well-being. The two versions of Jubaea chilensis are to be seen in' Melbourne: the one with purely erect leaves - like a Rhopalostylis sapida on steroids - and the more common, spreading variety. Does anyone know why these dramatic differences occur? Is it geographical? Does one type beget the same type? I'd like to know. The Jubaeas are amazing - monoliths with leaves on top, and I applaud anybody who plants one because 90 years on, they stand as impressive as the Himalayas, except that at 2-3cm per year, I think the mountain range is growing faster.

Due to the domination of our palm industry by Queensland, where Jubaeas will not grow, they are unavailable commercially. Because seed collecting in the gardens is strictly forbidden it was extremely fortuitous that I happened to be walking past the perimeter fence when some particularly ripe fruit dislodged in a freak gust of wind, ricocheted off a Japanese tourist's camcorder and bounced over the fence, when I took a slip's catch with a propagating box. Coincidence. It has germinated; producing two leaves in rapid succession before, on realizing it was a Jubaea, lapsing into a coma.

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