Friday, March 12, 2010

Walking-stick Palm

Linospadix monostachyos

The fruits of these pretty little rainforest understorey palms were just starting to colour up when I visited Goomburra a few weeks ago. They are said to be edible, (but why would you?)

They have developed from these odd little flowers, with their strange, crisp calyces.

This is our smallest local palm-tree, typical of rainforest understorey in northern New South Wales and Queensland. It can get to 3m high, but the trunks remain consistently at about 3cm.
Its populations have re-established themselves in our rainforest remnants (which are about a tenth of their original size), after heavy harvesting for walking-sticks in the nineteenth century. These were exported world-wide, so your antique walking-stick, which has come down in your family from your British or European great grandparents, could well be this species. They were made from the whole palm which was dug up and had the roots removed, its swollen base becoming the knobby handle.
This is a plant which should be used far more in our local redsoil gardens, specially by those who would like more local character to offset the “off-the-peg” look of our mainstream gardening style.
It tolerates full sun, but prefers half shade. It is quite drought hardy, but won’t take frost. Frost-free conditions are usually found close to houses and between buildings, which is a good situation for this little palm, with its inoffensive root system.
It does prefer acid soil, though, so if builders have damaged our redsoil’s natural pH by leaving buried mortar and concrete bits lying around, it will need some affirmative action in the form of compost, mulch, and water.
Unfortunately, the seeds can take six months to germinate, which may be why it is not as easy as it should be to buy in nurseries. Small plants grow rather slowly at first - so it is the sort of plant that would only be chosen by people who think their garden has a long-term future. Tuck them in among the short-lived pretties, as part of your plan for long-term succession.
It doesn’t like transplanting, so no-one should be trying to collect wild plants in the hope of giving them a head start.


NativeIllawarra said...

Very interesting comments about growing this palm - particularly on sites with builder's rubble present - thanks!

Would you recommend growing this palm in a pot?

Patricia Gardner said...

Dreadful stuff, the concrete, mortar and excess from bagging that builders leave lying around. I'm surprised that self-respect doesn't make them clean up their workplace! Who else would consider a job finished when their rubbish is still lying about the place?
And of course anything that's full of lime will make soil alkaline, which can make the job of starting a garden around a new home very much harder.
Walking-stick palms look like a good subject for pots, don't they? But apparently they have a reputation for not doing well unless they are planted if grown that way. I'm not sure whether it's the pot itself that's the problem, or the places where people tend to put the pot. this is a rainforest understorey plant that likes dappled shade and humidity. It might dislike an indoor climate, and the drought-and-flood regime that is often imposed on pot plants.
It might also be that it likes a humus-rich soil full of micro-organisms, and perhaps this has been wanting in the pots.
Perhaps you should try it and see.