Paschalococos and the Disappearing Palms

(page 2)

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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