May, 2002 Palm of the Month:
Blue Hesper Palm
One of the prominent palms of the California desert region is Brahea armata: the Blue Hesper Palm! Your Palm Doctor, living in sticky South Florida, cannot do anything but dream about owning one, as they dislike this area's heat, rain, and humidity. I will wistfully long for one, but know that I best just plan on enjoying the Brahea species of my frequent trips West!
The Blue Hesper prospers in Southern California & Arizona, where even though its rate of growth is quite slow, it is justly acclaimed for its show-stopping canopy of ice-blue leaves and long inflorescence pannicles. As I mentioned above, in moist subtropical or tropical regions (like mine!), this palm grows poorly and it is unfortunately short-lived. My best hope would be to grow it in a refrigerated, humidity-controlled greenhouse, I would venture! In Los Angeles, magnificent specimens can be seen in full splendour at Huntington Botanical Garden.
Some Characteristics of Brahea armata (Blue Hesper Palms):
Its salt tolerance is Moderate
Drought tolerance is High (as you would suspect of a arid region native palm)
Soil Requirements: Alkaline soil is to Brahea's liking!
Light Requirement is HIGH!
Nutritional Requirements: Very LOW
Human Hazards: It is rather spiny...Ouch!
Pest Problems: Palmetto weevils
Disease Problems: Phytophthora root & bud rots (moisture exacerbates these two!)
Habit: Solitary palm with a canopy of nearly 60 leaves
Foliage Colour: "Icy" Blue-green & very waxy. Size: About 6 to 8 ft. wide, and segmented 3 to 4 ft. long!!
Fruit size & colour: one inch long yellow fruit with brown stripes
Flower Colour: Yellow
Gender: Bisexual flowers on 15' long inflorescences, extending far beyong the palm's leaves. Very striking, indeed!
This is a wonderful and tantalizingly beautiful palm, that is Baja California's "gift" to the palm-lovers' world. It rightly deserves May, 2002's Palm of the Month!
Paul,"The Palm Doctor!