Jubaea chilensis

The generic name Jubaea honours a relatively obscure Numidian king, Juba I who was involved in civil wars against Julius Caesar in North Africa! But as to why it was applied to this palm I do not yet know.

This is a truly massive palm in maturity with the largest trunk in the Palm kingdom. The trunk is a sight to behold on mature specimens with the scars of previous leafs etched into its hard wood trunk. It can ultimately grow to a height of 30 metres in its native habitat.

However in cultivation this is a not a palm for the impatient gardener as it is an extremely slow grower, even in its native habitat in Chile. Unlike many other palms the foliage retains a strong healthy appearance as the new leaves emerge over time. It is also quite wind tolerant and is not adversely effected by salt air. There are some very large specimens growing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that were planted out over a 100 years ago which have survived and grown into mature trunked specimens. Also in the temperate house in Kew there is a specimen that was last measured at 18metres tall in 1985, which was raised from seed brought there in 1826!

The palm seed are edible and taste something like a dry version of the flesh of a coconut (to which I can testify having eaten some on my visit to Chile in March 2005).

It is an extremely hardy palm and most probably the hardiest of all the feather palm species. Unfortunately as they have to import direct from Chile and are notoriously slow growers, they are also quite expensive when compared to the not dissimilar cheaper palm,Phoenix canariensis.

Once established, they are reasonably drought resistant (not a problem in Ireland), although successful establishment is assisted by a relatively deep and well-drained soil for the root system. Additionally, they are extremely cold tolerant for a palm.

Of course if you want to see a wonderful specimen please visit Kells Bay Gardens where you can see Ireland’s largest palm tree looking majestically over Dingle Bay.