Germinating Jubaea

An excellent 'How to' article, this time about the tricky business of germinating the seeds of our biggest palm, Jubaea chilensis, together with the very best Jubaea photo I've ever seen.
Michel Lambreghts, 8 Rue Albert 1er, 4620 Fléron, Belgium
Chamaerops No.21, Winter Edition 1995/96


Photo: Jubaea chilensis in the south of france

Since the very beginning of my interest in palms, Jubaea chilensis has always been a secret star to wish upon. A star, because of its impressive beauty, its massive mature stature, its cold, frost and fire tolerance, its coconut-like fruits and, also, because of its relative rarity in nature and in palm nurseries. As my passion (should I say my love?) for Jubaea seems to be shared by many palm enthusiasts, I think that my personal experience in germinating 'coquitos' will interest many friends of the European Palm Society. Because Jubaea seeds are often said to be slow and hard to germinate, because I had previously tried it so many times without any success and finally, because when talking with palm nurserymen I've often felt that there is something like a "taboo" regarding the discussion of germination techniques for this small 'coconut'. During my previous trips to the south of France, I always brought back a dozen seeds and put them, scarified or not, in various mediums and at different temperatures, but without any result. Somehow they simply refused to sprout, even after a year. During my summer holiday last August, I came across a private garden near Hyeres, where four fantastic mature Chilean Wine Palms stood in single file (see the photograph). They were all in fruit, but unforttmately all immature, with green soft skin. At first glance, I saw none lying on the ground. Too early in the year: such a pity! Then I looked closer, not with my eyes, but with my fingers. I felt around in the grass beneath the trees and discovered more and more seeds. They were obviously naked seeds from previous years, the youngest of them being at least one year old. Not too long a time for trying germination? After a pleasant talk with the owner, I was allowed to collect as many seeds as I wished. And for sure he found it very funny to watch me walking on my knees! When I had filled a full plastic bag, the owner invited me to taste coquitos' and cracked some of them with a stone. It seemed a crime to me! Like eating sleeping babies lost in vegetable ivory. . . But I must admit that it was delicious. And this was also the beginning of my success in sprouting Jubaea seeds. Cracking! It was just a matter of cracking. I had read it before but found it too dangerous for my precious seeds. But with dozens of them, it was worth a try, especially when I realised that most of the seeds had been cleared of their fibres by Mother Nature, slowly, in the grass. A first pack of about a hundred seeds were cracked (with a stone, as the old French man showed me!) and

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