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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Palms; old and successful. Part 2

This posting forms the conclusion of last week's post on palms; today I'm simply going to introduce some species from both Australia and elsewhere.

Alexandra Palms Archontophoenix alexandrae forming a swamp forest in Centennial Lakes, Cairns.
This is their normal habitat in the east Queensland tropics.
Climbing Palms Calamus sp., Atherton Tablelands, north Queensland.
The stems can be up to 200 metres long; they form no crown, but have leaves crowded along
the end part of the stem.

A climbing palm with the delicious name of Vicious Hairy Mary Calamus radicalis, north Queensland.
In addition to the spines on stems and leaf edges, it has savage spiny 'whips' of tendrils up to four metres
long that assist in climbing and will tangle horribly in clothes or skin.
Kentia Palm Howea forsteriana, Lord Howe Island.
This lovely palm is endemic to the tiny Pacific island, but has now spread around
the world as a cultivated plant. It was also the subject of one of my first ever blog postings,
nearly five years ago. There's a lot more information about it there.
Queensland Fan Palm Licuala ramsayi, Daintree NP, north Queensland.
Restricted to streamsides and boggy areas of lowland rainforest of far north Queensland.
Livistona is a genus of some 30 species scattered across southern Asia - Australia, and in north-east Africa.
Cabbage Palm Livistona australis in wet gully, Kioloa, south coast New South Wales.
The 'cabbage' refers to the growing tip which was cut out by settlers for food - this of course killed the tree
Less lethally the leaf fibres were woven into 'cabbage-tree' hats.
Sand Palms Livistona humilis in tropical woodland, Kakadu NP;
the species is endemic to the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Livistona benthami growing by Cooinda Lagoon, Kakadu NP, Northern Territory.
This is its typical habitat, here and in north Queensland and New Guinea.

Red Cabbage Palms Livistona mariae, Palm Valley, Central Australia.
This species lives in isolation along just two kilometres of creek, surrounded
by desert where it could not survive. More on it here.

Mataranka Palms Livistona rigida, Boodjamulla NP, north-west Queensland.
It has a disjunct distribution here and around Mataranka in the northern Territory.

Livistona victoriae, Gregory River NP, western Top End, above and below.
Only recently recognised as a species, described in 1988, and found only in the
Kimberley district of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Chilean Wine Palm Jubaea chilensis, La Campana NP, central Chile.
This species (shot here looking into the sun, of necessity!) is found only in a small
area north of Santiago. The wine is fermented from the sap.

While we're on that theme, this is an iLala palm Hyphaene coriacea in woodland east of Masindi, Uganda.
In South Africa I was told that iLala is from a Zulu word meaning 'lie down', for the
supposed effect of the wine brewed from it.
(Naturally it will have different names in other parts of its extensive range.)

Still in Africa, this is a Raffia Palm, Raphia sp., Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, western Uganda.
This has the longest leaves of any plant in the world - they can be over 20 metres long and three metres wide!
Mauritia carana, Tambopata Reserve, southern Peruvian Amazonia.
These big leaves are in high demand for roof thatching, for their longevity - they may not
need replacing for a decade.

The same species, I am almost sure, from Waqanki Lodge on the lower eastern slopes of the Andes
in northern Peru. This lovely lodge is on the outskirts of the busy town of Moyobamba, some of
which can just be seen in the top left of the photo.

Also in Tambopata, the distinctive prop stems of Walking Palms, Socratea sp.
Despite the attractiveness of the story that they allow the palm to perambulate to more desirable sites
by means of shedding roots on one side and growing more on the other, it has no basis in the real world.
I don't really blame guides who are loth to abandon such a good yarn however!
On the other hand nobody seems to have demonstrated a convincing alternative explanation for the structures either.
The genus was indeed named for the philosopher by German botanist Gustav Karsten, for no evident
reason other than his assumed admiration for Socrates.

I hope that this relatively brief foray into the world of palms has been of interest or enjoyment - or preferably both! They certainly deserve our admiration and attention.

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Flabmeister said...

In Kiswahili (usually spoken somewhat further North than Zulu - certainly including Uganda) the word 'lala" has been built into the language from Hindi and means "sleep" - which is close enough to lie down! (You can buy t-shirts with the slogan "Keep calm and lala salama" with salama coming from Arabic meaning "safely".

Palm wine was certainly a feature in Tanzania although I don't know if it was the same species of palm. The sap was caught in 5 gallon drums and fermented while being captured. I have no idea how it tasted, but suspect it could well power rockets.


Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Martin, excellent information! My informant was Jean Caulton of Pelican tours, who I trust. I'm sure your suspicion is correct - I'm not sure either how much taste came into it in terms of its purpose...