Copernicia rigida (2)

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Figure 1. C. rigida

This population of C. rigida grows in the metal-rich region of Moa which is the oldest part of Cuba. Moa is an "island" of extreme serpentine-derived red soils which hosts an exceedingly endemic and conserved flora. Moa-Maguana is very rainy (>2000 mm on the coast and more inland) but the unusual composition of soils cause "edaphic drought"

Five years ago I published a report in PALMS, the journal of our beloved IPS, in the Cuban special issue.

The ones from Eastern Cuba have minor differences and a slightly different hue, with remarkable blue wax and orange strikes. That palm turned outto be one of the trickiest and slowest that I have ever had in my hands.

Figure 2. C. rigida roof

The story starts 11 years ago. I was 21 in 1995. Some unknown magnetism took the young Carlo to Cuba during that summer. I wanted to reach the easternmost tip of the island. All I knew was that a LOT of my favourite palms grew there. We got to the town of Baracoa in the middle of the night and somehow we ended sleeping in a farmers house North of the town. The following day I had to be ready to see my very first Cuban palms in the wild. I fell asleep wandering if I would have found any Copernicia in the area. Believe it or not, the following morning I opened up my eyes and saw this: (Figure 2 left). The home of our friends was nested in the hot and wet Maguana valley, which is still one of my favourite palm spots on Earth, comparable in magic to Mont Panie in Nouvelle Caledonie. In this picture five palm species would be recognizeable but the resolution does not help. The house was straight into the hearth of a population of Copernicia rigida. Hydiolvis, the 18 years old son of the owner, was the king of stone throwing and helped us to get seeds.

Figure 3. Maguana valley.
See the orange leaftips in the foreground.

A few germinated in the research center in Tenerife. And in the year 2000 the only survivor of the Eastern C. rigida was planted in the grounds of the Palmetum.

Figure 5. C. rigida 5 year old seedling.
Figure 6. C. rigida with Raul Verdecia.

Here it is (Figure 5 above), after 5 more years of steady growth in the ground. Any other Copernicia spp. we planted is at least 3 times larger. In comparison, C. ekmanii performed as a magic bean. And here is some work I did in 2003 with the Cuban botanist Raul Verdecia (Figure 6 left). So, if the seedling in Tenerife is 11 years old, how old are the adults in habitat, that can achieve 20 m in height? As with any other slow palms that one grows for years, my only worry and my only obsession is why did not I planted more?

Contributed by:

Carlo Morici (Text & Figure 1,2,3,4,5&6)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, IUCN, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk