The Red Crownshaft Palm in New Zealand

(page 2)

We are fortunate in our part of New Zealand in that our climate here is very similar to the high altitude regions of the Andes, never really cold yet not very hot either. I am watching this palm outside my window very closely.

The red crownshaft does not become visible until the palm reaches the age of eight years by which time the palm starts to accelerate in growth, shown on the trunk as widening spacing of leaf scars.

During the warmest months of Summer the palm stops growing. New leaf spears develop but will not open out. As many as four or five leaf spears of variable length can be observed at one time. As soon as the cooler Autumn weather starts these spears will open out in rapid succession. New leaves appear throughout the year, one or two a month.

One phenomenon which I hadn’t observed in Ecuador is the fact that newly developing roots emerging from the periphery around the base of the trunk are bright red also. Why should new vegetative growth be red in colour? One suggestion is that perhaps the red new shoots are unattractive to chewing insects. As soon as the new growth hardens off will the colour green develop, essential for the plant in the photosynthesis process?

The hardiness of the red crownshaft palm is about the same as the Kentia palm, Howea fosteriana. -4 deg.C will kill young palms growing outside without protection. Older palms are likely to be more resistant to cold. The leaves of this palm are rather susceptible to thrips, particularly when grown indoors.

Hopefully it will become more widely available in the future so that more enthusiasts will be able to try this fabulous palm in their own gardens.

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