Parajubaea - Palms with Altitude

(page 3)

Once it germinates that's most of the battle won. It grows remarkably fast and is easy to look after - not prone to any pests - the seedling fronds are tough and leathery. Since germinating each of my P. torralyii seedlings has produced three, lanceolate leaflets. One robust seedling measured 2 ft long but only 2 ins wide after only 12 months growth. Growth stopped indoors in late October with decreasing light levels but they start showing signs of growing again by early February. Its origins in a cool climate is evident by its willingness to grow during the nights and in the cold spring when temperatures are low. It is a pleasant change to see a palm growing fast when others like Sabal or Syagrus only really start growing when it is very hot.

Growth occurs rapidly after about three years, especially if planted out and freed from the restrictions of pot culture. Cocoides flowers and fruits after only twelve years in such diverse countries as New Zealand and Italy, underlying its adaptability to Mediterranean type climates. I've seen both cocoides and torallyi growing indoors as young plants in the temperate house at Kew Gardens. They looked identical although labelled differently. In general terms it is possible to identify which species your seeds are by examining the ridges on them. Both sunkha and cocoides have less obvious ridges on the endocarp. Torallyi var. torallyi seeds have three prominent ridges while var. microcarpa has three inconspicuous ridges.

A small Parajubaea is also planted outdoors at Kew in the Duke's garden although it is very difficult to see in summer, as there is a big, leafy tree in the way. It is easier to see in winter as the tree is deciduous. It survived last winter's mild temperatures without damage, helped by an extremely protected position between two brick walls.

Parajubaea may never be available commercially in Europe. The lack of seed, coupled with its erratic and lengthy germination, and its dislike for pot culture, makes it an unsuitable choice for nurseries demanding fast moving product lines. Purchasing seeds will probably remain the best way to gain access to such a tropical looking palm. It is another of those new, experimental palms from high altitude mountain ranges of the world like Caryota 'himalaya' and Ceroxylon - not yet assessed in colder climates but all requiring similar growing conditions, that can endure moderate frost, can thrive in cool summers and are highly ornamental.

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