Thu | Jun 20, 2024

Century palms in bloom at Hope Gardens

Published:Saturday | April 13, 2024 | 12:09 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Christopher Creary (left), cultural heritage officer at the Hope Royal Botanic Gardens, explains the lifespan of a century palm (in background) to Ronie Miller-Brown (centre) and Lourel Williams-Demercado, plant enthusiasts who visited the gardens to view
Christopher Creary (left), cultural heritage officer at the Hope Royal Botanic Gardens, explains the lifespan of a century palm (in background) to Ronie Miller-Brown (centre) and Lourel Williams-Demercado, plant enthusiasts who visited the gardens to view the century palms that are now blooming.
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Curious onlookers and plant enthusiasts on Friday morning gathered at Palm Drive in Hope Royal Botanic Gardens in St Andrew to gaze upon the Talipot palm, more commonly referred to as century palm, a self-destructing plant that flowers once in its lifetime.

“It’s spectacular!” plant enthusiast Ingrid Zaidie exclaimed.

She, along with friend Laurel Williams-Demercado, had been hearing a lot about the blooming plants in their social network and felt compelled to come and see it for themselves.

“I love horticulture. I love plants. Anywhere I live it must be like a jungle, so when I hear about this now, I say, ‘Well, I’ll never see this again in my lifetime’,” Williams Demercado told The Gleaner.

Christopher Creary, cultural heritage officer at the Hope Gardens, explained that the plant, which towers above others at about 90 feet, has a lifespan of up to 80 years.

As a matter of course, the Talipot palm, which is widely grown in Southeast Asia, has the largest branched inflorescence in the world. Its flowering has roughly 24 million tiny yellowish-green flowers and can reach up to nine metres long and 12 metres wide, according to the National Parks Board of Singapore.

The leaves, historically known as ola leaves, are durable and can be used as paper and thatch for house roofs, as well as natural umbrellas. In some parts of India, they are used as a source for manuscript.

The flowering marks the ending of the plant’s life in a phenomenon known as monocarpy. Creary explained that the plant typically blooms for six to nine months, then seed, after which it will die within a five-year period.

Currently, nine Talipot palms are in bloom at Hope Gardens – one started blooming in 2022, seven in 2023, and one in February.

Carla Myrie, executive director of the Nature Preservation Foundation, operators of Hope Gardens, said they have been attracting a lot of interest.

She shared that the spectacle exhibited by these plants is as a result of an experiment in the beginning stages of the 150-year-old garden.

“It was a plant experiment site before in the early days, when we had them bring in the different types of plants. We’re surmising that is when they would have been planted,” she said.

sashana.small@gleanerjm.com