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Rick Kelley

Another New Palm Garden in East Hawaii

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palmfriend

Hello Rick,

 

A very warm welcome to palmtalk from Okinawa!

Thank you very much for your introduction and for this ongoing documentation about the development of your property. 

I really enjoy reading this very informative thread - not to mention all those nice images. (Please keep them coming.:greenthumb:)

best regards from Miyako island/ Okinawa -

Lars

 

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jimmyt

Great post, Rick!  It is inspiring to see a man fulling his dream!  Keep us updated as we all are interested in this and learn from each other.

jimmyt

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Rick Kelley

Today I’ll focus on a couple of my favorite fan palms. Oddly, the native Pritchardias are not on the list. I have four, and two are in steep decline due to pests or disease. You might assume that a native plant would be especially vigorous in its home habitat, but no. It’s survival of the fittest at my place. Instead, I’ll start with Kerridoxa elegans, a species that really shines in Hawaii. It is too bad that this palm must be grown in containers in most mainland locations, because it is a totally different palm after a few years in the ground. I have a bunch of these, and it seems like it takes about three years to establish a root system before it really starts to show off. Right now, my largest ones form an eight ft diameter ball of giant round fronds that are dark green on top and silvery on the underside. Last year they began blooming. I had one male and three females. I hand pollinated the females and got plenty of seeds that have recently germinated. Producing viable seeds and then germinating them is a big part of the palm fun in Hawaii. 

Here is the first Kerridoxa that went in the ground in late 2014. It is a bit hard to make out since there are a bunch of potted Brugmansia sitting to the right. The baby tree fern farther to the right is Cyathea medullaris, the New Zealand black tree fern. This species can get huge, over 50 ft tall. It is a fast grower putting on two feet of new trunk a year. In the photo on the right, only the trunk is visible. I’m trying to use tall growing tree ferns to provide canopy to shade loving palms. Their falling light weight fronds are less likely to do damage to plants below than a large palm would. Maybe in future posts I’ll discuss the politics that surround growing exotic tree ferns.

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Here is a wider view of the same area showing the size of the tree fern. These provide an exotic tropical feel few other plants have. The lawn chair provides some scale. There are a couple of Verschaffeltias in the back, Licuala elegans at left, and a Heterospathe barfodi with a white trunk. There is even a coconut frond poking in on the right.

1724826202_KerridoxamedullarisbedroomJanuary2021-1.jpeg.cd79bf98c76b9dab9f252452dfcb4b65.jpeg

Every few years we get a freak blue sky wind storm: the dreaded Kona Winds. The NE trade winds that normally bring all our rain stop, and instead dry SW wind whips around the south point of the island. The wind can be over 40 mph for many hours. My poor Kerridoxa that have any exposure take a terrible beating. For the next year they look like crap until they can replenish their crowns with fresh, undamaged fronds. My only complaint about this species is that it has an annoying habit of opening each new frond as soon as the spike emerges from the stem. Then the expanding petiole tries to ram the huge frond 6-8 ft up through the crown of older fronds. This can lead to tangled and torn leaves. They should take a lesson from Licualas. Extend petiole first, then open frond.

Here is a partially sunburned Kerridoxa planted on a south-facing hillside with the idea that the silver underside would be visible to people looking from below while anyone on the upper trail would see the dark green side. It hasn’t quite worked out, but it was a good try. In this case the baby tree fern is Cyathea brownii, which will also get very tall. The plan is for the row of tree ferns to provide canopy for the Kerridoxa planted higher up the hill. View from lower side.

2059465986_KerridoxahilsideJanuary2021-1.thumb.jpeg.11b5330f15d1f5453fbb30b3df3e0af5.jpeg

Looking down at the same palm from the upper trail.

1426125772_KerridoxahilsidetopJanuary2021-1.thumb.jpeg.67647d1a0b7d5da46adf19249f5dea02.jpeg

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Rick Kelley

Next up is everyone’s favorite, Bismarkia nobilis. This must be one of the most successful landscaping palms to come out of Madagascar. My 5 gallon specimen from Floribunda was one of the first palms to go in the ground in 2013. It was slow getting started, but after nearly eight years it is beginning to show a bit of trunk. It might be around 8-10 ft tall. Whenever I have houseguests staying with me, they always want a photo standing in front of this palm.Slide3.thumb.jpeg.bc86a3d8bfa20d0a8ad9e0f5d2725efa.jpeg

These are so adaptable that they thrive just about anywhere on the island, but dial it up to eleven in hot, costal gardens. About five years ago HIPS toured the palm estate originally planted by Pauline Sullivan just a short walk from the ocean. While many palms were unhappy with the dry conditions there, the Bismarkias were the best I had ever seen. Tragically, the garden was lost in the 2018 lava eruption. Each day the Civil Defense helicopter would fly over the lava flow to record the destruction. On the June 2 flight, the helicopter passed directly over the Sullivan estate just as the molten lava front was consuming this amazing garden. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX64h033Q_M

To help orient what you are seeing, here is an aerial view of the area highlighting the location of Pauline Sullivan’s former palm garden. In the video the helicopter crosses from lower left to upper right. The asterisk at upper right shows the viewpoint of the helicopter as it looks directly at the palm garden from about 1:33-1:45. The incredible silver Bismarkiasare easy to spot from the air. Truly a terrible loss. We live in paradise, but it is not without risks. This is what my garden will look like some day, but hopefully not until after I’m gone.

55936192_SullivanpalmgardenlavaJune22018.jpg.5f15aa61feff96d3c0f1e5b2828c1229.jpg

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OC2Texaspalmlvr

What a sad video to watch =( 

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Rick Kelley

I thought I’d share some baby photos of a few palms that I expect to grow into giants. I’ll start with Attalea cohune. This one started as a 5-gallon pot planted in 2015. It’s now about 12-14 ft high. It might be mistaken for a Raphia since at this stage it is just a large feather duster of fronds bursting out of the ground. But in another 5-7 years I expect to see some trunk. Then it should blast off into the sky. Somewhere I read that this species is a heavy feeder, so I often toss it a handful of fertilizer.

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I have been amazed by photos of Corypha I’ve seen on Palmpedia. I had to get some. I have the room. I was warned that these were painfully slow, and they were for the first two years in the ground. But in their third year, they have really taken off opening a new frond every five weeks. It would be wonderful if there were some way to arrest development just before they begin to trunk. Once they get tall, I think they lose the overwhelming presence they have face-to-face. The Corypha umbraculifera (Talipote) came to me as a freebie giveaway at the 2016 HIPS banquet and auction. I think the generous donor was a West Hawaii palm grower, but I’m not sure. If you lost your mature tree around that time and provided a bunch of seedlings to our auction, thanks! And rest assured it is getting plenty of TLC.

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Corypha utans

14433810_CoryphautansJan2021-1.thumb.jpg.837abe83c6b4c2e1b27ddae0dde716c6.jpg

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Rick Kelley

I’m trying Mauritia flexuosa, but I might not be able to provide sufficient water for it to do well even with our heavy rain. I think in their native Amazon habitat, they are flooded a few months of the year. That is not going to happen here. I was motivated to try this species by the monster specimen growing in Tim Brian’s garden. I got mine as a 4” pot from Floribunda and nearly lost it by letting it dry out. After this near-death experience, it has been very slowly recovering but now seems to have found its groove. It is about six feet tall at the moment, and each new frond is larger than the last.

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I’ll close with one of the slowest palms I have. Apparently Dypsis sp. bejouf or bejoufa or bejofo drives taxonomists crazy. But I don’t care. I have seen mature specimens in several of the older gardens on the island, and they are incredibly impressive. But it takes decades to reach that stature. About seven years ago I got a handful of these seeds that look like little brains. I planted them directly in pots. Nothing happened. After about 18 months I decided the seeds must have been inviable and tossed one in the compost pile to clear some space. However, I was shocked to see that the ball of media was full of roots! I checked the other pots and they, too, were full of roots. I gave them another few months and they finallysent up a tiny first leaf. They were so slow in pots that I thought they would almost certainly prefer going in the ground. They were planted in August 2016, and quickly did nothing. After long intervals they might push up a new leaf only to drop an older leaf. No net growth. The leaves seemed to be burning, so I put little shade cloth tents over them. No improvement. Maybe it was some mineral deficiency. I tried more fertilizer with trace elements. No improvement. After four years in the ground, they were only marginally larger than when planted. However, in the last few months I’ve noticed that they have started to grow. Not a lot, but at least each new frond is noticeably bigger than the last and they now hold about 4-5 fronds. Recently I was digging about ten feet from one of them in an area with no other plants. I found roots that seem to be coming from the direction of the small palm. Maybe they have spent the past four years building a large root system needed before they can begin sending up larger fronds.

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Bazza
On 1/15/2021 at 7:39 AM, OC2Texaspalmlvr said:

What a sad video to watch =( 

There's a video? :interesting:

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OC2Texaspalmlvr
3 hours ago, Bazza said:

There's a video? :interesting:

there's a YouTube link above showing lava flow decimating an old palm garden :rant:

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Rick Kelley

In this post I’ll focus on the amazing climate in East Hawaii for those who have not visited. The weather is more or less the same every day of the year. The afternoon high at my elevation (700 ft) is generally about 83o F. 85 is an exceptionally hot day. Nighttime lows are around 70o F. It might dip down to 66 o F on a really cold winter night. On rare winter nights it gets so cold I have to get out of bed to close the window. Temperatures vary dramatically with elevation. It is much hotter and drier near the coast. It is too cold for most palms up near Volcano (4000 ft). The abundant rain is the real story. We do not have distinct rainy and dry seasons. It rains all year long due to NE trade winds bringing moist air across the Pacific only to collide with our two huge volcanos. Water vapor condenses into clouds and rain as the air is pushed up the side of the mountains. Luckily most of the rain falls at night, so we do enjoy lots of sunny days. Here is what my backyard gauge has collected over nearly 100 months. I ranked each month from driest to wettest and then placed them in bins at 3” intervals. In a typical month I get around 11-12”, but it varies a lot. A 3” month is extremely rare, but it does happen.

1525275265_rainrecordscombined.thumb.jpg.cf4a4d936fd13151a3072401ea82da04.jpg

My driest year so far has been eleven feet of rain. Take that California! The abundant rain is the only reason such lush vegetation is able to grow on solid rock. 2018 was exceptionally wet all year, and then a week after the huge Leilani Estates lava eruption stopped, we were hit by an almost stationary hurricane that dumped 55” over four days. Amazingly, we almost never have flooding because the lava rock is full of cracks, voids, and lava tubes. Somehow all the water just disappears into the ground. So far it seems like hurricanes can approach the Big Island, but are repelled by the two 13,600 ft high volcanos. Storms are forced to squeeze around the island, so we are spared high winds, but not the rain. The combination of abundant rain and mild temperatures is idea for many tropical palm species. A few would really prefer 10o hotter to do their best, but they still do fine here.

With that introduction, here are a few of my water hog palms that would probably struggle at most mainland locations.

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Rick Kelley

First up is one of Madagascar’s most distinctive palms, Marojejya darianii, first described in 1984. What a spectacular palm which unfortunately is restricted to very wet tropical settings. These grow surprisingly fast in East Hawaii, which may not be all that good since I think they are most impressive as a fountain of giant fronds bursting directly out of the ground. Once they develop a trunk and become taller, the wonderful entire leaves are more likely to become tattered by the wind. I have a bunch of these in the garden. Most are in partial shade but one is in full sun. They are all doing well. I've seen these palms in other gardens in Hawaii where the fronds are much larger apparently because the trees are growing in deep shade from a towering canopy. Those are exceptionally impressive. Although we get a lot of rain here, we occasionally go two weeks between showers. When that happens, I always pull out the garden hose to be sure these guys don’t dry out before the next rain.

These two photos illustrate the rapid growth of these monsters. The top photo shows palms that have been in the ground a little less than eight years. The lower photo was taken in 2013 shorty after they were planted from one-gallon pots from Floribunda. They were just a bit over a foot tall. The two photos were taken from different vantage points. The yellow oval in the lower photo is the spot where I’m standing in the top photo. The white spot is the location of the camera.

1230900248_MarojejyatrioJanuary2021smaller.thumb.jpg.1bece296851798be589ba843983d3b8c.jpg

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The shuttlecock arrangement of the huge leaves collects leaf litter creating its own personal compost pile. This might be an adaptation to survive in nutrient-poor, swampy soils. My largest specimens have about three feet of trunk and are starting to bloom. I think they are supposed to have separate male and female inflorescences emerging from different leaves. So far, I only see what I think might be female inflorescences. These have several dozen dark red, pencil-like rachillae covered in tiny flowers that display a white structure when open (right photo). Other bloom sheaths open to expose completely rotted (male?) inflorescences. I’m hoping this problem resolves itself as the trees get older. I’d like to generate some viable seeds. I’d appreciate pollination advice from anyone who has produced seeds.

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Here is a four-year old specimen with some other large leaf neighbors. The palm on the right is my favorite, Licuala peltata sumawangii. The heart shaped leaves in the middle belong to the giant anthurium, A. cupulispathum. I'd be interested to hear of people on the mainland growing these. Any success?

122486235_Licualaelegans.thumb.jpeg.5a52c1a3e7c32ed7b117f48575f6148b.jpeg

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realarch

 I’m enjoying your thread Rick. So analytical you. 

I can’t believe your Marojejya is already flowering. Nothing on mine yet which is already about 10 years in the ground. 

Your palms look great.

Tim

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Brad52
14 hours ago, Rick Kelley said:

85 is an exceptionally hot day. Nighttime lows are around 70o F. It might dip down to 66 o F on a really cold winter night.

Looks like down here on 8th I'm hotter, drier, and cooler!  Or, my thermometers stink as I had 59F up the driveway recently and lots of 63 early AM's.

Marojejya darianii - I have 3 of these, two wee ones and one a little less wee, all still in pots as I'm not sure where to plant them yet.

 

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Dypsisdean

Great topic Rick - thanks for chronicling the creation of another Hawaiian garden. I never get tired of seeing new gardens develop here in Hawaii.

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Frond-friend42

Magnificent posting, Rick. Especially loved the Metroxylon, Caryota, and now these Marojejya. Here is my mainland sumawongi, sharing a pot with orbicularis. I hope I live long enough to see it take on such beautiful proportions as yours.

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Rick Kelley
On 1/21/2021 at 9:17 AM, realarch said:

 I’m enjoying your thread Rick. So analytical you. 

I can’t believe your Marojejya is already flowering. Nothing on mine yet which is already about 10 years in the ground. 

Your palms look great.

Tim

If I might paraphrase The Graduate, One Word: Cinder

Rick

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Rick Kelley
12 hours ago, Frond-friend42 said:

Magnificent posting, Rick. Especially loved the Metroxylon, Caryota, and now these Marojejya. Here is my mainland sumawongi, sharing a pot with orbicularis. I hope I live long enough to see it take on such beautiful proportions as yours.

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I'm sure all your neighbors will be amazed to see these growing in your yard some day. Maybe under glass?

A few years ago I bought a bunch of tiny seedlings labelled L. orbicularis, but once they got larger I was disappointed to see they had segmented leaves. I hope yours turn out perfectly round.

Rick

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Rick Kelley

Continuing on with the theme of water hogs, this installment should probably come with a warning, 'Don't try this at home unless you have several acres.' Do people on the mainland grow Pigafetta elata? This is the Usain Bolt of the palm world. Truly a frighteningly fast grower when given sufficient water. I estimate mine have been putting on at least six feet of new trunk a year. These have to be kept far away from houses, power lines, etc. in case they were to ever blow over in a storm. In my hands at least, they are also more susceptible to disease. I have lost three of nine I’ve planted. Here is my oldest at a little over seven years in the ground from a small one gallon pot. It's probably about 40 ft tall. I'm not sure what the mature height is for this species, but certainly well over 80 ft. Whenever we experience a dry spell, these start dropping fronds at a rapid pace.

1291346472_PigafettaActinorytisJanuary2021-ano.thumb.jpg.e247ce3f3b348dd321849acc39296817.jpg

Pe= Pigafetta elata, Vj= Veitchia joannis, Ac= Actinorhytis calapparia

Here is the baby picture and the view from the ground looking up at the crown now. Most Pigafettas I see around the island have smooth, glossy green trunks, but most of mine are covered with aerial roots. Not sure what causes that. The petioles are covered with black bristles that look dangerous, but are fairly soft and flexible.

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The seeds are super easy to germinate. It only takes a few weeks. I even had one sprout from a batch of Hilo landfill green waste mulch I got three years ago (below). When I first noticed it, I thought I should try moving it to a less crowded location, but never got around to it. Now it is way too big. And much too prickly.  It is in a fairly crowded location, but I expect it will quickly gain altitude so the crown doesn't collide with the neighbors. If your climate allows and you have the room, be sure to plant a group. You’ll need separate male and female plants to get viable seeds.

Slide2.thumb.jpeg.80a9908f3bc978caa1288ddd5df2f5cb.jpeg

 

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MKIVRYAN

What a beautiful garden.  Thanks for sharing.  Your growth rates are amazing.

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Rick Kelley

This palm may not be quite as thirsty as the previous few water hogs profiled, but it certainly enjoys our wet climate. Raphia farinifera is a fantastic palm that may not be as widely grown as it deserves. The main problem for residential gardens is its size. It is an absolute monster even at ground level. It has some of the largest leaves in the entire plant kingdom, but doesn't make much of a trunk. Mine is about 25 ft tall after seven years, but I have seen older ones growing in Hawaii that are easily twice this height and far more massive. Totally overwhelming. There is a huge R. austrialis in the palm garden at the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus. HIPS recently planted a baby of the even larger R. regalis at Hilo’s Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. 

2085897045_RaphiafariniferaJan2021insert.thumb.jpg.4ef1affacbe3aee5958c627bc9407945.jpg

Some people may be turned off by it being monocarpic, but hey, we are all gonna die. I think the lifespan of these may be close to 25-30 years, so not my problem. The edges of the leaflets are razor sharp. If you were to ever fall into the tree while pruning it, you would bleed out before you could dial 911. And pruning old fronds is needed to keep it looking neat because they do not fall away on their own. So despite the drawbacks, this one gets a big thumbs up if you have the space and rain.

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realarch

Rick, you’re not wearing that ‘First Alert” pendant I gave you? 

Tim

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Kim

Thanks again, Rick, for your interesting and informative thread! Enjoying the ride. 

I love the look of Pigafetta ... in other people's gardens. :rolleyes:  Thanks for stepping up! 

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Rick Kelley

I’ll wrap up the theme of water hogs with Clinostigma samoense which has to be one of the most elegant palms in the world. It is widely grown in East Hawaii. A quick search of PalmTalk didn’t turn up many mentions of this species outside Hawaii. If these won’t grow on the mainland, that is surely reason enough for any serious palm nut to pick up and move! It is a super-fast grower if given full sun and enough water. As juveniles, they have entire leaves for a couple of years. I’ve seen specimens that are more than 40 years old, and they look like a different species. Incredibly huge. A trunk at least 50% wider. All aspects of the tree become frighteningly massive. The ones I’ve seen struggling at drier locations closer to the coast are a sad sight. The only downside of this palm is the destruction caused by the enormous, heavy, falling fronds. 

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These were the very first palms I planted almost exactly eight years ago. I got them from the Lundkvist nursery. Bo had planted dozens of them at the Malama garden. I only have three large ones and seven smaller ones, and they keep me plenty busy hauling away the heavy fronds. I can’t imagine trying to keep an entire forest of them picked up. 

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The small palm between the two Clinostigmas is a Dypsis baronii. It was a garden-warming gift from Tim Brian when he first visited my place back when only a couple loads of cinder had been delivered and long before the bulldozer showed up. It’s planted just far enough away from the Clinostigma that it has not been clobbered by falling fronds, so far. The wall of vegetation in the background is the property line with my neighbor's undeveloped lot, better know as Hog Hilton. This thicket of dense, invasive, weedy vegetation growing on bare rock covered my entire three acres when I arrived. When I first started visiting palm gardens of HIPS members, I was given wise advice. 'Only clear as much as you are willing to maintain.' Predictably, I have completely ignored the warning.

One striking characteristic of this species is the enormous crownshaft, up to 8 ft long. Underneath the crownshaft grows an equally giant inflorescence inside a heavy sheath. The developing sheath sometimes gets jammed as it grows so by the time the covering frond finally falls away, the inflorescence is so twisted it cannot shed its sheath. The entire inflorescence is a loss. Although it is interesting to see mature trees bloom and produce fruit, this ruins one of the best characteristics of the species, its beautiful minty green trunk. The top segments of the trunk immediately below the crownshaft are covered with a white powder that produces the effect. Rain slowly washes it off, so the lower parts of the trunk are less colorful. Once the tree starts blooming, the beautiful top section of the trunk becomes obscured.

Twisted.

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Properly opened inflorescences.

1619223860_ClinostigmafruitingJan2021-1.thumb.jpg.7503ceaa8cd65c08b4cba2f5657ee872.jpg

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Frond-friend42

I'm sad to see your wonderful thread come to an end.. Hopefully you keep posting, Rick..

From a Kauai hotel.  I thought this might be C. savoryanum. But now I'm thinking it looks more like Samoanse, given the leaflets proportions.  What do you think?

Again, very excellent postings.

Ben

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Kim

The trunk definitely does not resemble C. samoense, but I can't tell you what it is.  Clinostigma have a green trunk with widely-spaced leaf scars due to the rapid growth. 

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Rick Kelley

This does not look like a happy C. samoense, but it might be one of those pitiful specimens stuck in a dry hole. The beautiful green trunk only develops on trees with plenty of root room and abundant rain.  It's hard to imagine anyone would build a resort where it rains enough for Clinostigma to thrive.

This is not the end to the thread, just the focus on water hogs.

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Rick Kelley

Looking at recent posts here on PT, I saw an inspirational entry from Bo and Kim on last week’s shopping trip to Floribunda. Folks on the Big Island are completely spoiled by having access to such a comprehensive resource for the most sought after palms from around the world. Those on the mainland limited to mail orders are missing out on the experience of touring Jeff and Suchin’s incredible collection of mature palms in person. I’m sure many PT readers were especially interested in the photos of the recently discovered Sabinaria magnifica. For those not familiar with this story, it’s worth doing a little research. 

https://tropiscape.com/project/hawaii-island-palm-society/?v=9c587eccb9ce

HIPS was able to fly in Saùl Ernesto Hoyos-Gomêz for a lecture last year just before the pandemic shut down travel. It was exciting to hear about the discovery of this species from one of the team members who went into the Colombian jungle searching for new species after the peace treaty was signed with FARC guerrillas.

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I missed out on the first round of seedlings Floribunda offered about five years ago. But as luck would have it one of those babies found its way to my garden by a rather indirect route (many thanks Joseph!). It’s only three feet tall at the moment, but it’s putting on new fronds at a good pace. One thing I especially like is that the fronds are perfectly free of any blemishes. No hint of any mineral deficiency or pest problem. I planted it in a special location with a moderate canopy overhead and very good wind protection. I have high hopes.

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cobra2326

So in Orchidlands estates it rarely gets below 65F at 700' elevation? I was thinking it got cooler, like 60 or even upper 50s in the winter? I've never visited there, I was just using the weather stations from that area on weatherunderground.com

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Brad52

I think it varies widely in this area, I'm 8 blocks from the ocean but it was 56F this AM so I assume I'm in a cold sink down here.  It seems I'm always a few degrees colder than Hilo which is about the same elevation, and colder than Kea'au which is a tad higher than me.

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Rick Kelley

Those who have visited the five-acre palm garden planted by Bo Lundkvist in Leilani Estates will recall that the collection is organized by geographic origin of the many species. What a great idea! Unfortunately, because I have been planting my property piecemeal as I prepared small areas with cinder, I just stick in whatever species I happened to have available at the time. However, I did save one area as a showplace for larger palms of Madagascar. In this post I’ll first give a few photos of the construction phase of building terrace walls up the side of a broad mound of lava back in 2015-2016. Then I’ll show some photos of the palms’ growth over the last five years. 

The whole point of hiring a bulldozer to extend my driveway to the back of the property was to gain access to large dump trucks. However, I didn’t want the drivers to be forced to back out 1000 ft after delivering cinder. I ended up having a large Y branch excavated at the end of the road. Large trucks are able to pull into one arm of the Y, back up into the opposite arm, and then exit going forward. This has worked well. I’ve had dozens of huge delivery trucks drop their loads and then turn around without any difficulty.

Here are two photos from approximately the same vantage point at the very back corner of my property before the bulldozer and a more recent photo with landscaping in place. Since the area has changed so much, I marked an ohi`a on the right side in both photos to help orient you (*). I had foolishly left a lone ohi`a in the middle of the Y turn-around area thinking I’d like to save it as a small island of vegetation in the center of the turn-around (marked X). The dozer crushed it in seconds.

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The green lawn in the lower photo is actually the driveway left by the dozer. All the palms are planted in raised beds of cinder on top of lava bedrock. There is a rubber tree visible in the upper left corner threatening to consume the entire area.

Bm: Blue Marble Tree, Elaeocarpus angustifolius grown from seed.       Bn: Bismarkia nobilis         Da: Dypsis ampasindavae    Db: Dypsis sp. bejoufa (3 short seedlings hiding in the groundcover).              Dc: Dypsis carlsmithii (behind the D lastelliana).              Dl: Dypsis lastelliana.                Dm: Dypsis manajarensis                                          Doc: Dypsis sp. orange crush.            Dp: Dypsis procera                Lh: Lemurophoenix halleuxii                Ts: Tahina spectabilis

 

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Rick Kelley

Once the dozer was done, I had to pull all the leftover rocks away from the edges of the driveway so I could have a clear area to build. My walls are very low tech. I just spread some cinder to make a smooth foundation for the wall. Then I lay a rope on the ground to mark the location of the wall. Then I start stacking rocks. As the rocks go up, I backfill with alternating layers of cinder and mulch. I try to pile the cinder much higher than the top of the rock wall because once the mulch decomposes and the cinder settles, the surface drops quite a bit. In the photos below, the yellow ovals indicate where the Tahina will be planted.

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A good place to start talking about specific species is with Tahina spectabilis. If you are new to palms, you should explore the discovery of this amazing species that has been well documented on PalmTalk. Just about every palm garden in Hawaii is growing this species thanks to Bo Lundkvist getting a bag of 100 seeds from the first batch out of Madagascar. I think he successfully germinated about 85 of them. Mine are probably some of the last of this group to finally go into the ground, so they are a little stunted. I have to thank Karolyn Lundkvist for a wonderfully generous gift of this specimen. The siblings from the same batch of seeds growing in South Florida and other hot climates seem to be significantly faster than those here in cooler Hawaii. However, I’m guessing ours will eventually catch up as a few local specimens have really starting to take off recently.

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Here is a side view of the same area showing how the slope is terraced with cinder. I'm not sure if 12-18" of cinder is deep enough to support the palms for many years to come, but so far the palms seem pretty happy. In the photo below you can see the baby blue marble tree just above center (to the right of the wheel barrow). It has gone from 5 ft to 50 feet in the past five years. I'm planting more of these to replace the dying ohi`a.

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And below with palms. Some of the ohi`a trees in the top photo have been removed. The palm on the left is Dypsis manajarensis. The Tahina is about six feet tall and the manajarensis is about twelve feet high after a little over 4 years in the ground. This came from Bill Austin's nursery and is probably from the same batch discussed by Jason and Kim in a dedicated thread. D. manajarensis may be a challenge on the mainland, but they thrive here.

 

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Here is the first Tahina I got in 2013. After a couple of years of slow growth, it began showing severe accordion leaves possibly caused by boron deficiency. The upper photo was taken in June 2016 with badly deformed leaf segments. The lower photo is several months after getting fertilizer supplemented with boron. The next frond that opened looked much improved. Not sure if this was really cause and effect, but I continue to occasionally treat with boron fortified fertilizer. This Tahina is much slower than its sibling shown above, but maybe it will someday take off.

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Rick Kelley

Today I'll move about 20 feet from the Tanina in the previous post to show where I planted my Lemurophoenix. Here is a photo from June 2016 showing the early phase of construction with black patches of cinder and piles of mulch. The yellow oval is where the Tahina will go, and the white oval is where the Lemurophoenix will end up. The dashed box is the area shown in the second photo. Several large dump trucks backed up a ramp where the white oval is so the cinder could be dropped higher on the hillside to save me a little work when spreading it. After all the cinder had been delivered, I built a rock retaining wall out front to hold the cinder for the Lemurophoenix.

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This is the view four months later showing the baby Lemurophoenix planted in a raised bed. Some of the rocks used in this wall weigh well over 100 pounds (50 kg), much too heavy for me to lift or move in a wheel barrow. These big ones have to be rolled over the ground with great effort from wherever the dozer left them to the work site. Sometimes a few hundred feet. This wouldn't be so bad if I had a crew of Inca slaves, but it is a lot of work for one old geezer. And by the way, I have been to Machu Picchu. I will admit that the stone work there is somewhat better than mine, but they DID have plenty of Inca slaves to get the job done. I should be graded on a curve.

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This Lemurophoenix halleuxii started out in a tall 4” pot from Floribunda and has really made itself at home. I think Floribunda may have the only mature fruiting specimen outside Madagascar. The newly opened leaf is a dark maroon-brown for a few days before it greens up. Each new frond is significantly larger than the previous one. Maybe not a rocket, but it is steady. It’s probably about ten feet tall. This is a popular species in Hawaii so there are a number of larger specimens including two at the Pana`ewa Zoo. Large ones are very impressive with lots of color. I have enough trouble with pigs. The last thing I need is for this palm to start attracting lemurs.

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The palm off to the right is Dypsis sp. orange crush. It is a fine palm, but so far no hint of orange anywhere. The ground cover is Agapanthus. I grew up in hot, dry Texas. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for graduate school, I was impressed by the beautiful landscaping everywhere, and especially the blue Agapanthus growing by the millions along roadway medians. I bought a few plants after arriving in Hawaii and collected the seeds from one inflorescence. These all germinated producing several hundred seedlings, enough to cover a fairly large area. This produces a sea of tall blue starbursts between April and July.

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Rick Kelley
On 1/6/2021 at 11:37 AM, necturus said:

Great stuff. Once my career winds down (or I give up on academics) I will join you out there! Another Houston transplant.

It would be amazing to have a garden near Volcano and in your area. Seems like you could grow both the highland and lowland palms?

For the 20 years I was in Houston I worked in a genetics lab at the Medical Center. There is life after science in Hawaii!

I'm so sorry to see the terrible weather forecast for Texas over the next few days. Looks like the beautiful, tropical landscaping is going to take a big hit. Best of luck protecting your plants and pipes.

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Rick Kelley

I’ll continue with palms of Madagascar, this time showing two medium sized palms with beautiful white crownshafts. First is Dypsis basilonga. I was impressed by the ones I saw growing in a couple of gardens in East Hawaii. Although mine started out from just a one gallon, in only 3.5 years it is now well over ten feet tall with a couple feet of clear trunk. The white crownshaft is set off by black patches of either algae or mildew growing at the junction with the petiole. Whatever it is does not seem to be causing any trouble and I like the contrast in colors, so I have done nothing to clean them up.

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The overall look of D. basilonga is quite similar to D. saintelucei which I had planted earlier. At first, I only had one in the ground, but once it began growing I though a group would look better. The 2013 and 2021 photos were taken from opposite sides of the trees. The recent photo was taken a bit too close so as to clearly show the crownshaft, but the fronds are equally eye-catching. They are mostly stiff and erect, but the tips curl down in a very graceful way. With a bit of imagination you might see the slightest blue tint.

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They have been producing seeds for a couple of years. The inflorescence is a bit annoying because it begins interfoliar, but takes long enough to mature that the lower fronds holding it up eventually drop away. Without the old crownshaft supporting the heavy inflorescence, it flops down three or four feet either breaking off or making mowing difficult. I have taken to using rope to tie the inflorescence in an upright position before the covering crownshaft falls away. The seeds germinate in a few months.

In the 2013 photo you can see a metal tank in the distance on the right. That is my catchment tank that holds 10,000 gallons of rain water collected off my roof. This supplies household water for everything except human consumption. The water would be drinkable with more rigorous treatment that I use. Rain water is much cheaper to collect than drilling a well and you don't need to worry about ground pollution. My tank has never dropped below about 40% full during even the worst dry spell when I’m watering plants frequently. Most of the time it is full and overflowing. When I first moved here I was put off by the third world vibe of collecting rain water. But after eight years, I now think this is an entirely sensible and eco-friendly strategy for rural East Hawaii with its reliable, abundant rain.

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I’ll continue with more Dypsis planted on my Madagascar Mound. First up is Dypsis carlsmithii named for a prominent Hawaii lawyer and palm enthusiast. Donn Carlsmith graduated from Hilo High School and then went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford University and Law Degree from Harvard. After returning to Hawaii to practice law, he became interested in preserving rare tropical plants. He served as president of the IPS from 1978-1980 and planted a spectacular palm estate a few miles north of Hilo on the Onomea Bay. That garden was the first to grow this mystery palm from imported seed. Over the decades, the progeny of that original tree have found their way into gardens around the world. Wild plants growing in Madagascar were not found until 2012. Mine is just getting started (left, top of steps). It is certainly not a rocket, but neither is it as slow as some other large Dypsis. It’s about 8 ft tall after a little over four years in the ground.

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Its neighbor to the right is one of many Dypsis lastelliana I have planted. It seems everyone loves this species for its incredible dark red-brown crownshaft. Mine are still a few years away from trunking, but I can already see hints of the red at the base of the fronds. That's a Tahina off in the distance dead center. That's a royal palm in the distance far right.

Not sure if I'll ever do a whole post about building gravel walking paths through the garden, so I'll just mention them here. The rough lava on my property was a serious hazard to try walking across. Everyone in Hawaii wears sandals or flip-flops, but I had to insist visitors wear sturdy shoes or boots to avoid broken ankles. Over the last 18 months I have spread 100 tons of gravel to build walking paths. In an attempt to make lemonade out of the tragic loss of the native ohi`a trees, I used the trunks of the dead trees to build steps up and over the lava mounds. Those logs are quite heavy, and I have built LOTS of steps. This has been some of the most difficult work building the garden, but now visitors can run around barefoot if they prefer.

I am really starting to love Dypsis ampasindavae (below). Good growth rate, beautiful form. It's hiding behind the D. carlsmithii in the photo above.

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I assume a lot of palm enthusiasts wonder how taxonomists came up with the genus Dypsis and what criteria were used to lump such a diverse group of palm together under this name. The three species show above certainly share enough characteristics to be recognized as having a recent common ancestor, but what about Dypsis procera? It is a wonderful clustering bifid palm, and fast growing, but visually it does not seem to be closely related to the others.

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I’ll close with a word to my fellow Texans freezing their butts off this week. Frozen pipes, dead palms, icy streets, no power, a pandemic all while your senator vacations in Cancun. It’s almost enough to make a person consider moving to Hawaii where you only have to worry about earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and hurricanes. Every location has its hazards. Between disasters you guys get to enjoy great TexMex while we are stuck with lush tropical landscapes.

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