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From the Associate Curator

David Kruse-PicklerAssociate Curator David Kruse-Pickler, M.S.
Mr. Kruse-Pickler has worked at SFBG since 2007, first as Plant Collections Manager, then as Associate Curator. Prior to that he volunteered as a Docent as well as a Nursery and Plant Collections volunteer. He has a graduate degree in Plant Systematics of California Native Flora at San Francisco State University.

Ceroxylon quindiuense. Cocora Valley, Quindío, Colombia

Ceroxylon quindiuense, Cocora Valley, Quindío, Colombia.

High Elevation Palms at San Francisco Botanical Garden

San Francisco Botanical Garden's climate of year-round moderate temperatures and high humidity allows for the successful cultivation of extremely rare heat-intolerant palm species from cloud forest habitats. High altitude South American genera such as Ceroxylon and Parajubaea and Southeast Asian Trachycarpus thrive at SFBG. No other North American botanical garden has the same potential for success in cultivating the full range of these palms, many of which are endangered.

Among these species is Ceroxylon quindiuense, the tallest of all palms, approaching 200 feet in height, and Parajubaea torallyi var. torallyi, one of the highest altitude palms in the world at 11,500 feet above sea level. Currently these and other species are being added to our Andean Cloud Forest alongside established plantings. A pair of C. quindiuense planted in 1983 are over 70 feet tall and are still immature, with crowns of leaves in a shuttlecock form adapted to push through the forest canopy. When this round of planting is complete, 30 new individual palms representing 14 species will have been added to the collection.

In the Temperate Asia collection a new species of Trachycarpus was recently added, T. ukhrulensis. This new species was recently discovered growing at moderate altitudes on the Himalayan arch near India's border with Myanmar. This addition leaves only one species left to procure to represent the entire known genus in the Garden.

As we move forward, the high elevation palm collection at SFBG has the potential to be one of the most important conservation efforts in the Garden's history. Recognition and thanks go to local palm expert and nursery volunteer, Jason Dewees of Flora Grubb Gardens, and Palm Society donors Dick Douglas and Darold Petty. Jason's patience, steady persistence in acquiring many of these palms over the years, as well as sharing his passion and knowledge have been a major driving force behind the addition and diversification of SFBG's palm collection.

This article appeared in the June 2011 edition of Pacific Horticulture magazine