Interview with the Editor

(page 3)

IMG: What is the difference between Trachycarpus martianus 'Khasia Hills' and ‘Nepal‘ forms and where have you seen them?

Martin: They are very similar, one being slightly finer, and the Nepal form being slightly hardier as it grows at higher altitudes. They are both actually the same species although at one time they were considered different species. One was called Trachycarpus martianus, the other Trachycarpus khasianus. They have since been lumped together and I think for good reason. They grow at a fairly high altitude. The one that grows near Shillong in Meghalaya province is on the side of a very steep valley and is shrouded in mist for half a day which gives an indication of its requirements. Again it is in an absolutely beautiful setting; you drive along a plateau and then this very steep valley begins. You can look down into this valley and at the far end you can see Bangladesh, which the whole plateau overlooks. The other species, martianus Nepal form, grows not far from a popular trekking route in Nepal. The route goes around Annapurna and you can see the palms from this trekking route. So we went along with the other trekkers with our rucksacks and climbing gear, but whereas they went along the path we headed up into the hills. We climbed up these rock faces and after two or three hours we were in an area where there were just hundreds and hundreds of them. They were in an incredibly beautiful area; these palms choose really beautiful places in which to grow, or maybe they simply make the area beautiful.

IMG: Trachycarpus oreophilus is yet another new species that you have discovered. Where is it found?

Martin: Oreophilus grows on a mountaintop in northern Thailand. The mountain is called Doi Chiang Dao, and it grows near the city of Chiang Mai which is the second city after Bangkok. It had been known about for years and for a long time it was considered to be a species of Livistona. Then it was decided it was Trachycarpus martianus and was given that name in the absence of herbarium material. We went up there two or three times, though it's a killingly difficult 4 hour climb. It's very wet, it rains, the sun comes out, it rains again, the sun comes out. So all the time you are soaked and then you are dried out and soaked again and dried out. Again, it's an area of unbelievable beauty. You get up to the top and you can see all these Trachycarpus growing on limestone cliff tops, in little crevices, on ledges and they get absolutely battered about by the wind so nobody knows what they look like in cultivation in a sheltered position. A close inspection revealed them to be a new species. We named them ‘oeophilus‘ which means ‘cloud-loving.‘ There are none anywhere in the world apart from those which came from our original collection. When the plants we have collected have started to grow they will show their true colours and I'm sure they will look quite distinctive.

IMG: Where have you seen the best example of Trachycarpus growing in cultivation outside of its native Asia?

Martin: Without a doubt, around the lakes in Switzerland and northern Italy. They reach perfection and look better than they do in the wild. In fact, palms generally look better in cultivation than they do in the wild. The Trachycarpus around the north Italian and Swiss lakes look absolutely gorgeous, almost like a different species. I put that down to the absence of wind and also the high humidity caused by the lakes. I have never seen a single fortunei in England that looks half as good as most of the fortunei in northern Italy and southern Switzerland.

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