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"Superannuation" in palms

This "story" also began as a series of e-mail messages sent to the International Palm Society e-mail list. Messages are reprinted here with permission from the individual senders.

The first message was sent in by Dave Hopkins of Australia:

A not very reliable source informed me that many of the older generation of Torres Strait Islanders (who are Australians of Melanesian descent), early in their lives dig quite deep holes and plant a coconut at the bottom. As the coconut grows they fill in behind it until eventually of course, the coconut is spreading its fronds in a happy arc at ground level or thereabouts. Not long after this the coconut palm begins to fruit at ground level or a level at which the nuts are easily harvested. If this story is true then I would assume that the coconut just goes on putting out adventitious roots until there is a giant underground root ball until they stop covering the trunk.

George Stomatis of South Africa then added the following:

If it is true, it sounds like a good idea for those living in dry tropical or dry warm-subtropical climates where coconuts will grow, but obviously they do a lot better with good watering. At least this way there is a deeper root system, so the plant can tap into water deeper down a lot easier.

I do something similar with Verschafeltia seedlings. I plant them in a very big and deep bag, right near the bottom. As the seedling continues to produce it's thin, weak, and sensitive little trunk and stilt roots, I keep on filling up the bag with soil. I normally fill it once a year. This produces a much stronger, vigourous plant and also they tolerate much more cold than what other 'normal' Verschafeltias do. I have done this with two seedlings. They are three years old now, and looking good. They don't even have any signs of cold burn at all!

Once they are big enough, and the trunk is thick enough, I will plant them out in a deep hole, and continue to do this, there may be fewer stilt roots visible above ground level, but still at least they should reach maturity here without excessive protection. I am going to try Socratea next, as they have a similar growth habit.

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