December 16, 2014

Monstrous Palm Starts to Die

Monstrous Palm Starts to Die
Corypha umbraculifera
Talipot Palm
(photo: Craig Morell)
Our iconic and long-lived Talipot Palm at Pinecrest Gardens is starting its flowering cycle and will die completely in the next 15-18 months. This palm, Corypha umbraculifera, is one species which has but one life to give its visitors, a trait that is called monocarpism. The species is well known to grow for 40-80 years, and somewhere in that time frame the palm will mature, flower, then die. In the flowering process, the palm will produce one of the largest and most spectacular inflorescences in the plant world, producing as many as 200,000 flowers, which in turn will set several thousand single-seeded fruits. There are urban myths that the palm can produce millions of fruits; a curious idea because if the palm did so, the resulting mass of fruit would weigh something on the order of 200,000 pounds ! The well-branched inflorescence will grow 20-25 feet tall in the next 6-12 months, and when mature will rain down a slow-motion snowstorm of white flowers. The local honeybee population would likely regard the cloud of nectar-rich flowers as the grandest Mother Lode of all flower stems, and they will be busy at work pollinating the flowers. The fruits are round and the size of a golf ball or a bit larger. One of the sad parts of the life story of our Talipot Palm is that there is a well-established landscape underneath this massive palm's great leaves, and the plants will need to be relocated to make way for the falling fronds, flowers and seeds. We will re-plant a new Talipot seedling in the place of the fallen one, to make sure we carry on the heritage of this incredible species in our garden, one of the few places in the USA where Talipot palms can be grown.   

Young Talipot Palm leaf

Talipot Palm
in full flower mode

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens