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Big Mountain Palm
Forests, and exposed hillsides of Lord Howe Island, at around 600-700m altitude.
A medium sized palm, to about 10 m (33 feet) tall, with a very closely ringed trunk, and a crown of short, silvery leaves. This is a graceful and attractive single-trunked feather palm that grows slowly to 10m (33 feet) tall with a full head of elegant recurved pinnate leaves that come from a blue-green slightly bulbous crown shaft. The trunk is blue green when young and matures to green with regularly and closely spaced ring-like leaf scars. The flowers emerge from below the crown-shaft and are not overly showy. They have ivory-coloured male flowers and purple female flowers but are followed by large showy dull red fruit.
The habitat of Hedyscape canterburyana, known locally as the 'big mountain palm' is high up on the Lord Howe Island's two largest mountains, Mt. Lidgbird and Mt. Gower. We saw it on Mt. Gower at and above 400 metres. It has an attractive light bluish green cylindrical crownshaft. Ripe seed is large and bright red. An interesting feature is the presence on the same plant of seed at quite different stages of development. The lower bunches of seed are the most mature. Fruit take up to four years to ripen and it is not easy to tell when the seeds are ripe.
This likes a moist, but well drained position. It prefers shade or morning sun when young but can grow up into the sun with age. It grows well in cooler climates such as those of Sydney and Auckland, rather than the more tropical areas.
Fresh seed is slow and erratic in germination, with seedlings appearing from five to 18 months after they are sown.
Chris King (Figure 1)
John and Jean Price (Figure 3) (from Palms & Cycads No. 57, Oct-Dec 1997).
Mike Gray (Figures 2)
Ian Edwards (Figure 4&5)