The Red Crownshaft Palm in New Zealand
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 hadnt 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.