It seems like months ago, but just four days ago I promised a series of nice palms to warm us up and so here we go. These are completely random and all they have in common is that I have seen them long enough to take a photo or two.
But first, what is a palm? Well palms are all in the family Arecaceae and there are about 2600 species in 200 genera. They are woody monocots and although the greater number are tropical they can be found in temperate regions too and their homes vary from tropical rainforest to deserts. They usually have huge, divided leaves in clusters atop tall, unbranched stems. They can be roughly divided into three types: the fishtail palms, feather palms and fan palms, based on their leaf shapes. Many are of great commercial value, providing food, medicine and homes. To us frozen individuals in cool temperate areas, the mere outline of a coconut palm is a vision of heaven!
Palm flowers are usually small, with three petals and they may be unisexual or perfect with both sexes. The flowering habits are very varied and plants may have flowers of both sexes or just one. Some have flowers throughout their mature lives while others flower and then die. Palms have fruits that can be tiny, fleshy (date palm) or just huge – the world’s biggest seed is from the coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica) which weight up to 30kg each – you wouldn’t get free p&p on a packet of those!
Few palms are hardy in the UK and Ireland, though SW Ireland is kinder, temperature-wise, than most of the UK and I know of at least one Chilean wine palm (Jubaea) growing outside there, something that is notable for an old Kewite who is more used to seeing it in the Temperate House at Kew.
Anyway, on to today’s palm: Dypsis decaryi.
There are 170 dypsis species and they are a varied bunch. However, all have pinnate leaves (feather palms), all are monoecious (the plants have both male and female flowers), they never have spines and all are native of that magical island of Madagascar.
This is a remarkable palm with leaves, up to 3m long, in three ranks giving it the name of the triangle palm. It is very rare in the wild but is common in cultivation in frost-free climates. Its popularity in cultivation is partly due to its compact habit, it rarely gets more than 9m high from root to leaf tip, and the beautiful ‘fluff’ at the base of the leaf stalks. It is said to be very tolerant of drought when established. Hardiness USDA 10a