Extinct is Forever' as the posters say. Carlo
ponders this, and explores and explains about other vulnerable species
of palm in this well-researched article. by Carlo Morici, Palmetum de Santa Cruz de Tenerife,
Parque Maritimo, 38001 Canarias, Spain Chamaerops No.40, published online
Photo: 'Last refuge' - Cocco thrinax barbadensis
survives only in one or two locations on Antigua.
Paschalococos disperta would be a great introduction
for the Canary Islands. I am sure that this feather palm from Easter
Island would do wonderfully in other subtropical and Mediterranean
areas. Its native island is located at about 28 degrees southern
latitude, making this palm resistant enough to cold to even grow
in Southern France. Sadly, nobody will ever grow Paschalococos because
it is extinct.
For a plant lover, a plant in its pot is just a
part of a dream which includes memoirs of an exotic locality with
plenty of animal life, mysterious people, a curious climate, and
a taste for adventure. I love to read about palms in their original
environments. The habitat tells a lot about the plant and the palm
tells a lot about its home. I definitely think that some palms have
an Asiatic look, while some others look Australian. Some "smell"
like savanna and some grow in a "Cloud Forest Style."
Take a look at the palms in your dining room: the tall Dypsis lutescens
(Areca or Bamboo palm) close to the window is perfectly adapted
to the white sand beaches of Madagascar; that small clump of Chamaedorea
elegans (Parlour palm) evolved in the understorey of humid forests
of inland Mexico. There, the poor soils contain a lot of limestone
and it can be quite cold at night. Howea forsteriana (Kentia) could
tell long stories about its native habitat: a windy and humid island
in the South West Pacific.
The ecological problems known to all of us are deeply
affecting palms. The general public talks continuously about the
disappearing tropical rain forests, but seem to be less concerned
about the loss of other palm habitats such as dry forests, scrubs,
savannas, semi-deserts and coastal bushlands. These ecosystems are
home to most of the palm species suited for cultivation.
I have been stimulated to write this paper by a
book published in late 1996. It is the first "Status Survey
and Action Plan" for the palm family produced by the I.U.C.N.
(International Union for Conservation of Nature). The editor, Dennis
Johnson, gathered the efforts of 30 palm specialists from many countries;
these specialists are the same people who produced most of the prolific
palm literature of the last decade.
According to the survey, the situation is apparently going toward
a disastrous collapse. About 80% of the palm species of the globe
are threatened to some extent, or, even worse, we are ignoring their
conservation status. A dramatic datum is that 21 species are classified
as "Probably Extinct." This means that there are no more
wild stands of those species and, if a rediscovery will ever occur,
only a few old isolated specimens are likely to be found.