The Coconut Palm
The Symbol of the Tropics!
"The Wise Gardener", my dear fellow palm mates, has had MANY difficult gardening assignments over the years. This, I would say, could very well have been my "toughest!!" Why? Well, it takes a lot of discerning talent and (compostloads of manure) to take it upon oneself to decree WHAT SPECIES OF PALM rates as the GOLD MEDAL AWARD Winner of this particular millenium NOTE: check APRIL of the year 1000 A.D. back issue of the stone tablet version of:
Ye Wise Gardener & Hunter, for the article selecting the GOLD MEDAL AWARD-Winning Palm of the last millenium!!)
After MUCH thought, yours truly, picked none other than Cocos nucifera!! I feel that the coconut palm has always communicated "tropicalness" better than any other plant. This is, of course, strictly subjective!
Besides being one of the most commercially important "crop" trees in the world, (almost ALL parts of a coconut tree are made into universally used products, i.e. shredded coconut; [MMM: Ah, those "Mounds" Bars!], fibre used in rope; oil which is utilized in almost every commercially baked product found in our supermarkets; and cellulose which is widely used as filler in animal feeds), the coconut tree is THE "signature" tree of the tropics!
It is ubiquitous throughout all warm regions of the world, although its l "birthplace" is most likely the South Pacific region. How did it become so widely distributed around the globe? Its' seed (the coconut itself) FLOATS!!! By being such a buoyant seed (and a huge one at that!) it was able to travel around the world on the various currents in the oceans. The coconut seed, with all that fibre and oil, was the perfect botanical "boat"!! Indeed, the coconut palm was destined to populate all of the warm climates of the globe, due to its inherent ability to "sail" its own "ships" on the tropical oceans' "rivers" within the various seas around the world!! How resourceful!!
The Palm of the Month for October, 2001 Caryota mitis The Clustering Fishtail Palm! Paul, "The Palm Doctor!" has culled through the profiles of many, many palm specimen candidates and cheerfully has decided, after much consideration, that "The Clustering Fishtail Palm": (Caryota mitis), has won the much-coveted Palm of the Month Award for October, 2001! Here's why, palm lovers! The Fishtail Palm, which justifiably is a interior-scapers's mainstay palm for exotic & carefree tropical beauty, is even better outside in Zones 10B, 11, & 12!! It features unusual leaf form, rapid, clustering growth, and a manageable height (15 M.) for the average tropical suburban home of today. Young plants can readily be grown in containers, which effectively increases the Fishtail Palm's range of growth (keep this palm warmer than 4º C.) and enjoy outside all the way to Zone 8B most of the year! The Fishtail Palm's (Caryota mitis) attributes are many, indeed. Consider the following about this Southeast Asian native palm: 1. Moderate drought tolerance (although this palm enjoys supplemental water!) 2. Widely adaptable to most soils (acid or alkaline!) 3. Variable light requirements 4. low to moderate nutritional requirements (easy to please!) 5. Excellent screening palm (and not too tall!) 6. Fabulous clustering habit! 7. Relatively free of diseases 8. Freedom from insect infestations! 9. Propagates readily (usually within 4 months!) 10. Very distinctive unusual, tropical-looking foliage 11. Deep-green leaf colour (looks "rich" in texture and form!) 12. Can be grown indoors with only moderate, or average indoor light conditions! 13. Finally, attractive dark red, tropical-looking fruit (in abundance!) This palm is a palm that clearly "delivers" the tropical homeowner beauty, exotic foliage, a desirable clumping form, and hardiness within its appropriate growing zones! I think that you'll be proud of your new Caryota mitis (Fishtail Palm) yard addition. It's a palm you will be proud to own, I am confident, palm lovers! This palm is truly worthy of your "growing" consideration...I highly recommend the Caryota mitis, and hereby award it the October, 2001: Palm of the Month! Paul, "The Palm Doctor!"
Here in South Florida, the coconut "naturalized" in the 1880's when a ship wrecked off-shore at what is present-day Palm Beach (latitude 27 degrees North). The "nuts" that the ship was hauling broke free, floating towards the coast on the warm Gulf jet stream ocean current, and obviously found their new-found home to their liking, as they sprouted on the beach enmasse! The rest is "history", as they say. These "old-timer" coconuts developed quite lushly in temperatures that rarely fell below 45° F and when people discovered this "palmy paradise", it was very easy to pick a name for this tropical-looking, coconut-laden hamlet: Palm Beach!! So all the millionaires and billionaires who enjoy this exclusive enclave today, can thank a shipwreck two centuries ago for depositing a true "treasure" on their lucky shores... the coconut palm!! This treasure turned out to be more awe-inspiring than any gold doubloons could ever have been!
It is for my special love of the coconut palm: its beauty as it sways in the breeze, its inherent survivability, its image as THE symbol of the tropics, in my mind, and its utility to the human race, that my:
Gold Medal for the Palm of the Millennium goes to the COCONUT PALM!!! Let's all praise this award-winning palm, and celebrate the wonderful coconut! And, let's plant this majestic, tropical "beauty" wherever we can!!!
Note to those readers contemplating growing a coconut palm. Please ask for the Malayan Dwarf or the Maypan varieties of coconut at your local nursery, as these varieties are Lethal Yellowing resistant. Lethal Yellowing is a always-fatal palm disease once acquired!! Please read more about Lethal Yellowing before planting your palm!
Paul, "The Wise Gardener!"