On a holiday in Mexico, Sweden's Jan Anderson
looks for palms and cycads and finds plenty. by Jan Andersson, Stockholm, Sweden Chamaerops No.34 Spring 1999, published online
Last winter holiday I decided to go to Mexico for
the old antique palaces and while there I thought I may have some
chances of seeing some palms and cycads in their natural habitat.
I went first to the Botanical Garden of Xalapa where I knew they
had some investigation program about some Dioon species. I asked
them where I could find the Dioons in the wild and I wanted them
to indicate on a map that I brought with me. Unfortunately the director
of the garden Mr Andrew Vovides wasn't there at that moment and
my Spanish is very bad so I had trouble with communication with
them in the beginning. But then I found another English man working
there and he showed me on the map where I would have some possibility
to find a colony of the big, more than ten meters high, Dioon spinulosum
or are they Dioon rzedowski? It was not far from a road south of
Tuxtepec in the north Oaxaca province.
I heard from Mr Vovides assistant Mr Carlos Iglesias
that the Dioon edule grows at such a slow speed that it takes a
thousand years to grow every meter in stem height. In David Jones'
book about Cycads it is written that Dioon edule grows to a height
of three meters, that means three thousand years. In Mexico they
protect the pyramids that are less then two thousand years, so I
think they ought to protect old Dioons at least at the same level.
Mr Iglesias told me that it takes Dioon edule fifty years to cone.
Dioon spinulosum grows much faster and it takes it about twenty
to thirty years to cone.
All people working at the Xalapa Botanical Garden
were very friendly despite my bad knowledge of the Spanish language.
Another Mexican man called Antonio showed me the Palms and Cycads
they were growing there, also those in the Greenhouses. They had
many very nice Chamaedorea tuerckheimii, which they said now was
extinct in the wild. And they had a tremendous amount of Cycads,
all of the over forty species of Mexican Cycads that exist. For
the first time a saw several specimens of the big and wonderful
Ceratozamia euryphyllidia. And I had never seen the Dioon with the
more sparse leaflets arrangement, Dioon caputoi, before. They also
let the Ceratozamia mexicana grow wild within the Botanical Garden,
but that species grew like individuals very spread out, I didn't
see any big colonies of them. In the garden they had also lots of
Mexican palm species like many Chamaedorea, Gaussia maya, Astrocaryum
mexicanum, Sabal mexicana, Thrinax radiata, Brahea dulcis and some
exotic species like a very healthy looking Trachycarpus fortunei
despite the year round warm climate in Xalapa, a big Arenga pinnata,
some Syagrus and a palmate palm with very long, about four centimetres,
sharp black spines on the petiole, which was labelled Livistona
sp., what type of Livistona could that be?
When I returned to my hotel in Xalapa I made some
consideration of what possibility I had to see the Cycads in wild.
I thought that I better take the chance to see them while I am here.
I decided to go to Tuxtepec and then to the place where I could
see the big Dioons in the wild. Of course it is much easier to find
the more common Dioon edule in the wild, but probably the big Dioons
are more impressive, with stems over 15 meters high. The towns I
passed through my trip to Tuxtepec I saw but quite a few Dioon spinulosum
or rzedowski in some home gardens, e.g. in Fortin de las Flores,
Tierra Blanca. They are really looking fantastic, especially when
the leaves are reflecting the sun. When I came to Tuxtepec, the
people wondered what I was doing there since the town is far from
a touristic spot.
I went to the road south of the town where the big
Dioons where supposed to grow just about three hundred meters from
that road. The people at Xalapa Botanical Garden had said that it
was growing in a sugarcane field. At the beginning of that road
the sugarcanefields also began. After about forty five km the road
entered the state of Veracruz and the field I was looking for should
be before that, in the state of Oaxaca. But the first time I went
through the area I didn't find the field. Then I thought it maybe
better to ask the farmers living around in the area where I could
find the Palma des Chicalite, which is the local name for the big
Dioon, it is the same local name for Dioon spinulosum and rzedowski.
So I went back with the bus and went off right in the wood or right
at the sugarcane fields, the other people in the bus thought I was
crazy to go off at that place, they started laughing at me, but
they didn't understand my purpose.
I started walking the road and asked every farmer
I saw on the way. But, no one really knew what I was talking about,
some of them was so friendly that they pointed at some directions
without knowing what I was looking for, instead of saying that they
didn't know. One time nearly the whole village tried to help me,
but it showed up that they didn't know. Then I hitchhiked with a
lorry, because then I come up a bit and maybe I could be able to
see the fields better and hopefully find the field where the big
Dioons were growing, the sugarcanefieldsds around were quite high.
But I wasn't successful with that either. So I had to give up the
searching. I should have asked the people at the Xalapa Botanical
Garden to give a more exact location of the field where the Dioons
grow, but that was too late to think about now.