New Caledonian Palms in Cultivation

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New Caledonian Palms in Cultivation

The cultivation of New Caledonia palms has proven to be a challenge for most growers and apart from Chambeyronia macrocarpa and to a lesser extent Kentiopsis oliviformis, there are very few successfully in cultivation. The following notes and comments may introduce and hopefully solve some of the problems associated with cultivating this difficult group.

Gerald McKiness of Georgia, U.S.A. writes: "I must confess I have had very poor success at growing the New Caledonia palms. I did have success with a few though. I was able to get some fresh seed of Basselinia gracilis and was able to keep them thriving for six years. The plants were very healthy and were in a well drained soil mix containing pine mulch (1/3), perlite (1/3) and sandy loam (1/3).

"Another palm I had success with was Burretiokentia vieillardii. I grew some to a very nice three gallon container size. However, I did lose a fair percentage of the seedlings during the winters. It is my belief that the deaths were due to rot caused from cool damp conditions where the excess moisture could not be evaporated. I believe also that if these palms were grown in a similar way as the culture recommended for Phalaenopsis and Odontoglossum species of orchids that much success would be realised. Get the seedlings past the first three years like this and then bring them out. A well drained, organically rich soil is very important. I was able to germinate Cyphosperma balansae, Basselinia pancheri, Cyphokentia macrostachya, Brongniartikentia vaginata, Actinokentia divaricata and others using this mix. I was able to get most seedlings to survive to the first winter before I lost them.

Most of my plants would be grown outdoors in south Florida under tree canopy or under saron shadecloth. The forest palms which require a more acid soil would be treated with manure and iron chelate at least once or twice a year. The death of the seedlings as I see it was not in the soil condition or amount of irrigation. I really believe it is the amount of warm mist needed around the plant as might be produced in a mist propagation house. I would also emphasise regular treatments of a systemic fungicide and some air movement. Ideal conditions to be found in a good orchid house. "

From Cairns, Dusan Balint writes: "Due to the difficulties in the past of obtaining fresh, viable seed from New Caledonia, I have not grown many of the very interesting palms. I list below those which I am growing at present. Basselinia gracilis - is a delightful little palm presenting no difficulties to the grower provided that it is grown in a very well drained medium. I found it to be very slow growing initially. Brongniartikentia vaginata - equally slow growing and susceptible to damping off. Chambeyronia macrocarpa - this palm seems to tolerate a large geographical distribution growing well in subtropical Sydney or tropical highlands and here in tropical Cairns. Chambeyronia lepidota - similar to C. macrocarpa. Burretiokentia vieillardii - a few young plants of this palm I obtained three years ago, which had grown to a six inch pot size, rotted off last summer. I am under the impression that all New Caledonia palms would prefer a climate slightly cooler and less humid than we have here in Cairns."

Scott A. Lucas, Curator of Living Collections at the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii writes: "There are not many (New Caledonia) species in cultivation here. I am sure that the reason does have to do with the major soil differences between ours which is acid and volcanic in origin, and New Caledonia's which is alkaline and serpentine in origin. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in establishing a few species in cultivation here. These include the following: Basselinia pancheri, Kentiopsis oliviformis, Brongniartikentia lanuginosa, Moratia cerifera, and Burretiokentia vieillardii."

"The most critical time seems to be the few months immediately following germination. The list above represents a very small percentage of the fifty or so plant species from New Caledonia which we have attempted growing over the years. We have never really made an attempt to amend our soils for the planting of New Caledonia plants and we seem to have equal trouble getting plants other than palms into cultivation here as well. We have made a number of unsuccessful attempts at getting Pritchardiopsis to grow here and will no doubt keep trying."

Pauline Sullivan, of the International Palm Society lists the following as growing in her gardens in Ventura, California: Chambeyronia macrocarpa Basselinia gracilis Burretiokentia vieillardii Actinokentia divaricata Kentiopsis oliviformis Veillonia alba

Pauline surveyed some fellow palm growers within her area (Southern California) and supplied the following: "The species cultivated in Southern California include, as well as those above, Cyphosperrna balansae and Burretiokentia hapala. It appears that Chambeyronia macrocarpa is very adaptable to the Southern California climate.

Pauline adds, quote:- "This last winter was unusually cold. Twice the temperature dropped to freezing with many nights around 2-5° C. None of my New Caledonia palms showed any cold damage. All my New Caledonia palms I give chelated iron, an abundance of water and fertilize regularly. My soil is clay."

From the Solomon Islands writes Geoff Dennis, quote: "I am successfully growing Burretiokentia vieillardii, Chambeyronia macrocarpa and Actinokentia divaricata in our local (Honiara) calcareous soils at about 170 ft. elevation a.s.l. from seeds originally collected by Don Hodel on behalf of the International Palm Society in the mid 1970' s. All species are just commencing to develop trunks."

"This is very satisfactory in view of our ever warm climatic conditions compared with New Caledonia' s sub-tropical climate with fairly low night and mid-year temperatures and the fact that the first and last named species are normally found only on soils overlying schists and serpentine rocks. Chambeyronia macrocarpa is widely distributed throughout its home island and is not so specific in its growing requirements, doing well also in Florida, U.S.A., which also has mainly calcareous soil conditions in the warmer southern growing region. Other seedlings raised from Don Hodel's gatherings, including various species of Basselinia, Mackeea magnifica, etc. failed to survive although I believe that some may thrive if provided with suitable growing media. Certainly there are. all kinds of soil types accessible in our neighbouring bush areas inland, including ultra-basics, and I am in fact raising a few recently acquired seedlings of Burretiokentia vieillardii, Chambeyronia macrocarpa, Cyphokentia macrostachya and Cyphophoenix elegans with success to date. "

Ken Foster, Past President of the International Palm Society writes: "My first palm collecting trip to New Caledonia was in 1977. I again collected in 1979. I list below 15 species of palms that I personally collected on these two trips and the results: Chambeyronia macrocarpa - easy to germinate and easy to grow. Kentiopsis oliviformis - easy to germinate and easy to grow. Burretiokentia vieillardii - easy to germinate and easy to grow. B. hapala - easy to germinate and easy to grow. Brongniartikentia vaginata - seeds germinated poorly, but plants healthy, but very slow. Veillonia alba - easy to germinate but slow growing. Clinosperma bracteale - seeds hard to germinate and very slow to grow. Mackeea magnificaca - seeds easy to germinate but very slow growing, plants robust. Basselinia gracilis - seeds very easy to germinate, plants slow. Cyphophoenix elegans - seeds hard to germinate, plants slow but robust. C. nucele - seeds easy to germinate and easy to grow, very robust. Cyphosperma balansae - seeds hard to germinate and plants slow. Campecarpus fulcitus - seeds did not germinate, were not quite fully ripe. Cyphokentia macrostachya - seeds did not germinate, were fully ripe. Actinokentia divaricata - seeds easy to germinate, but plants died after several years, were two feet tall.

Extracted from:

Palms of the South-West Pacific, by John L. Dowe

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