The Palms of Cuba (continued)

Coccothrinax pseudorigida is another absolute beauty. It is the only clumping Coccothrinax species known. It grows to only 6 to 8 feet with very stiff, deeply divided orbicular leaves. It has a shrub-like appearance and grows next to Copernicia cowellii in serpentine soils. Leaves are bright green on top and whitish-silver underneath. Trunk fiber is very thick and spiny.

 

Thrinax ekmaniana is another superb palm that is also unfortunately seriously endangered. It grows on three isolated mogotes in an otherwise flat savanna region. The entire habitat is unique and several species of plants are found here and nowhere else. Thrinax ekmaniana is another small palm measuring no more than 8 feet and growing from what appears to be solid limestone rock. Leaves are a medium green on top and silvery underneath. There is fiber attached to the leaf petioles that give it a bit of a hairy appearance among the leaves. Petioles are short and leaves are held stiffly. Old leaves are also held giving the crown a ball-like appearance. From afar these palms look like lollipops sticking up from the mogotes.

 

Gastrococcos crispa is the one Cuban belly palm that is known in South Florida. Colpothrinax wrightii, locally known as the barrigona palm (bottle palm), is the other Cuban belly palm. It is easy to see why this unusual and beautiful palm was at one time considered to be a Pritchardia, as it shares a common ancestor with that genus. The “belly” is very pronounced and only occasionally does it produce a second “belly”. Trunks, over time, become very smooth and leaves are a dark green on top and silvery underneath. It is a very useful palm in Cuba, with leaves used for roofing thatch and trunks used as corner posts for buildings. It is a palm that, although slow growing, should be tried more in cultivation.

That is a taste of the palms of Cuba. Hopefully this article provides a little insight into a fascinating country and the palms that inhabit it. There will be more information to come as more is learned and perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, more Cuban palm species will be available for cultivation both here and elsewhere in the world.

    Paul Craft

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