Paschalococos and the Disappearing Palms
Nevertheless, a "Probably Extinct" species
can, in some cases, be rescued.. It recently happened to an African
desert fan palm called Medemia argun. I remember that, when I was
17 years old, Pietro Puccio, a friend of mine from Palermo, Sicily,
told me about an enigmatic palm named Medemia, which was originally
distributed throughout Egypt, getting close to the Mediterranean
coast. Seeds of Medemia had been found in Egyptian tombs, among
offering gifts, almost as frequently as those of the date palm.
This legendary plant would have doubtlessly done well in Sicily
but disappeared from Egypt between the 6th and the 7th century.
In the XX century, isolated trees were reported by Boulos in 1968
and by Issawy in 1964, but the Medemia track was soon lost again.
Nowadays my friend Pietro is growing small Medemia seedlings in
his Sicilian garden, as the palm has recently (in late 1995) been
rediscovered in Northern Sudan by two European nurserymen, Martin
Gibbons and Tobias Spanner. The next step, which would need an international
cooperation plan, would be to reintroduce Medemia seedlings in Egypt,
where it may be extinct.
Not all cases are so lucky: a feather palm from
Juan Fernandez Island (Chile) is threatened by introduced domestic
animals that eat its seedlings. Seeds have been collected and distributed
on several occasions, but Juania australis has won the name of "The
Un-growable Palm." Only one mature specimen survives away from
its island (in Santiago de Chile), because the cultural needs of
the palm seem to be quite peculiar. A few small plants survive here
and there in warm temperate climates. However, I think that the
island of Madeira (Portugal) would perfectly match the climatic
requirements of Juania.
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