Monday, 23 February 2009

Mr. Fortune's Chamaerops

The Palm above described is now well known as " Mr. Fortune's Chusan Palm," and has attracted considerable attention on account of its comparative hardiness. It is indeed the most hardy of all these princes of the vegetable kingdom that is as yet known to us, and the only one that has been proved to stand almost unprotected throughout the last ten winters in the latitude of London. In the Isle of Wight, under the shelter of the Royal residence of Osborne, it has attained a height of ten feet in the open air, six feet being the height of the stem below the foliage, and its diameter fourteen inches at one foot from the ground; it has blossomed for the last three years, with no protection during the winter.* Our plants at Kew were introduced by Mr. Fortune, in 1849, and have attained eight feet in height; the finest are moved into a conservatory during the winter, but others receive no other protection than a matting in the severest winter months.

* Chamaerops humilis is also flourishing in the open air at Osborne, but requires a little protection in the severest weather.

We have taken great pains to determine the name and affinityof this interesting plant, which certainly approaches very closely indeed to the C. excelsa, Mart., a species discovered and described by Thunberg, figured by Martins, and of which a noble specimen, twenty-eight feet high, received from Japan, through Dr. Siebold, flourishes in the Palm house at Kew. To this we were strongly inclined to refer Mr. Fortune's palm, notwithstanding that the C. excelsa was never supposed to be even half-hardy, both because of its near resemblance and because Thunberg states C. excelsa to be a native of China and only introduced into Japan. Mr. Smith, however, has always considered them different, and after a close comparison we are disposed to agree with him, on the following accounts :—C. Fortunei is a more robust species, with more compact and appressed matted network of fibres amongst the bases of the petioles, much stouter shorter petioles, less glaucous more shining foliage, far broader segments of the leaves, and pendulous apices to these. The flowers of the two are nearly alike, and the fruit of C. Fortunei is unknown; that figured for it at Figs. 6 and 7 of our Plate was introduced by error, and should be expunged.

Descr. The caudex or stem, in its native climate, eight to twelve feet high (exclusive of the crown of leaves), the lower portion marked transversely with the numerous scars of the fallen leaves, the upper portion exhibits the bases of the petioles of the old leaves, mixed with a good deal of coarse transverse fibre, which also abounds among the perfect foliage. Fronds forming a handsome, more or less spreading crown to the caudex. Petioles a foot and a half or more long, convex below, nearly plain above, the margin quite unarmed, or very obscurely toothed, in which respect it differs -widely from the better-known Ch. humilis. Lamina semiorbicular, flabellate, a foot and a half long and broad, deeply plaited, cut for about a half or more of the way down into numerous linear segments, which are three-quarters to an 1 inch broad, pendulous towards their apices. Spadix small in proportion to the plant, and consequently not very conspicuous, emerging from several imbricating leafy Iracts, forming the spatha, and constituting a dense thyrsoid panicle, more than a span long, and clothed with yellow flowers, scarcely so large as those of the Lily of the Valley. Peduncles and primary branches thick : ultimate branches pubescent. Flowers sessile, rarely perfect, mostly male or female. Calyx small, of three sepals. Corolla of three orbicular petals. Stamens inserted on the base of the petals.
Ovaries three, ovate, hairy, tapering upwards into a thick subulate style.

Fig. 1. Very reduced figure of flowering plant. 2. Spatha and spadix :— natural size. 3. Female flower. 4. Petal and .stamen. 5. Ovaries. (N.B. Figures 6 and 7 are fruits of another plant, unintentionally introduced, and are to be cancelled):—all but Figs. 1 and 2 magnified.

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