Hawaii Island Palm Society

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Travels with Joseph Tucker

  • 5 Jan 2019 9:53 AM
    Message # 6984825

    Many of us have missed the shining enthusiasm of our friend and former HIPS VP, Joseph Tucker.  Joseph sent me an email from Phnom Penh that he invited me to share.  Here is an excerpt:

    Greetings from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve been here 8 months now, and I imagine I will be here for at least another year. I am still working in finance and will stay as long as the career opportunity remains positive. If I do leave Cambodia, it will likely be for a neighboring country. I am limited to large cities in order to follow my career, but Singapore, Hanoi, and Bangkok have all caught my attention for future living, work and adventures.

    …on a recent company holiday trip to the coastal province of Kampot, my “palm senses” were activated when I spotted some huge fan leaves jutting out of the brush on the side of the road in the Preah Monivong National Park – Bokor Mountain to be specific. Had I not been on a bus with my coworkers (who apparently don’t want to talk about palms), I would have demanded the driver stop in order to let me admire and photograph them. For the first time since I left Hawaii, I felt the awe and wonder that a fantastic looking palm can inspire.

    These were unmistakably Corypha, perhaps my favorite genus. The dimensions of Corypha, just make me say “Wow!” – “what an incredible, massive plant”. These particular massive palms were located on a hillside, and there must have been 30-50 along the next kilometer. Later research led me to think that they could be Corypha lectomtei, which is said to occur in Cambodia. They were all about the same age, which in my best estimation would be around 15 years old. If they had trunks, they were not more than 8 feet tall and hidden by persistent leaves. I will go back on a special trip just to see these palms up close and take some photos.

    Further up the road at a slightly higher elevation, there were large amounts of massive pinnate-leaved palms clinging the steep hillside. I tried to figure out for quite a few minutes why Attelea would be growing in national park in Cambodia, but then I saw the seed bracts and remembered the genus Arenga. Based on limited knowledge and just a few minutes of internet research, they are likely Arenga pinnata. They are fine looking palms with huge and erect pinnate leaves and long infructescences.

    As the bus ride up the mountain (which is around 1000 meters at its peak) continued, I started to notice these spindly but attractive palms with almost plumose leaves that were persistent and green along the entire trunk. These palms were up to 30 feet tall and 6 inches in diameter, though many were much skinnier. Closer inspection revealed some of the worst thorns in the plant kingdom. A quick internet search showed that these unusual beauties were most likely Calamus viminalis. The ones growing here didn’t seem to clump thickly, and they actually appeared to be single stemmed which made their unique silhouette more pronounced in the landscape.

    Finally at the top of the mountain, when I was able to venture into some undergrowth, I found some very pretty Pinangas. They had dark purple stems, light yellow to cream crownshafts and were clumping. They looked quite similar to an unknown Pinaganga species I had in my Hawaii garden.


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