The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

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Dave Brown
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The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Dave Brown » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:22 pm

Trachycarpus fortunei is one of the more common palms in the UK today, with maybe the exception of the Canary Island Date Palm in recent years but it is perhaps the only completely hardy palm anywhere in lowland Britain, although maybe incredibly slow growing in the cooler parts.

It is a vary variable palm with leaves ranging from just over 1 to 4 feet in diameter. From wagnerianus delta shaped to fully 360 degree circular fans. There has been debate for many years about whether wagnerianus is just a bred variation of fortunei, and even debate over whether small leaved fortunei are actually wagnerianus. I'm not trying to decide that debate, but the purpose of this topic is to show the natural variation of Trachycarpus fortunei. Now you may say that there are several subsets of the species and this accounts for any variation we see, but my observation is based on my two oldest T. fortunei which have been producing seed for about 15 years now, and particularly in the variation in the seedlings. This dispels an theory of subspeices, or regional variation, accounting for differences in leaf size and shape. The seedlings from the 2 trees are widely variable. :wink:

This is Trunky Trachycarpus, a male, now 38 years old and about 18ft tall. One of the first in the UK to have a stripped trunk in 1993. It's leaves are small only 20" in diameter with a mild delta shape. In the past I thought this was a waggie first cross, but that is open to debate. Flowering since 1989.
Trunky Trachy Post.jpg
This is Trudi Trachycarpus, a female, now 29 years old and also about 18ft tall. However, it is the opposite of trunky with a huge crown of 4 ft diameter leaves, not delta, more rounded. Also with a stripped trunk. Flowering and producing seed since 1994, and self sown seed germinating since 1997.
010708 garden 032.jpg
You can see the male and female are chalk and cheese, but the seedling are any variation between the two and beyond, from small leaved waggie looking to large leaved fully circular :DD

Starting with the oldest self sown seed grown now in it's 10th year forming a trunk with huge 42" circular leaves. This is at the base of Trudi (mother)
Trachy f 007.jpg
Next is a self sown seed grown in it's 9th year with 36" almost circular leaves. This is in the back garden next to the patio. Don't know how the seed got there.
Trachy f 001.jpg
Then the oldest seed grown was collected from Trudi before they started to self sow, 1994. Where I gave most of the seedlings away I hung onto this one because it looked different. It had a long petiole and very short leaf blades. After 4 years it looked like this.
Trachy Wintel  1998.jpg
The leaves were more rounded when young, but have become more delta shaped. At 15 years it has 14" very stiff, acutely delta shaped leaves, and now is starting to form a trunk. This is slower growing but it is still in a tub rather than in the ground.
Trachy f 002.jpg
This is my favourite Trachycarpus fortunei leaf. I think it is the symmetry and that the leaflets are more deeply and evenly split than on most. This is a 5 year old self sown seedling that was dug up and potted 3 years ago.
Trachy f 004.jpg
This is the most common form of young Trachycarpus fortunei leaf, also a 5 year self sown seedling. The leaf is divided into sections of leaflets in a rather asymmetric way.
Trachy f 005.jpg
Show us your Trachycarpus fortunei leaves icon_thumright
Best regards
Dave
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trachy1973
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by trachy1973 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:59 pm

Dave that one with baked bean can for scale looks like a waggie.

Here is one of my Fortunei's, just the average frond type. You do have some quite different variations there.

Keith
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Devonian Jungle » Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:07 pm

Image
Thanks,
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by GARYnNAT » Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:14 pm

Great article Dave, my big Trachycarpus is difficult to photograph due to its location in the garden but will try to get a good pic tomorrow, this is a smaller one though :D
garden sept 08 033.jpg
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by turtile » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:14 am

That wagnerianus came from two fortunei parents? I wonder if its a rare getetic trait in that case - really not a different species. The last leaf looks just like Rhapidophyllum hystrix! (Trachycarpus is closely related)
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Alexander » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:44 am

The reaso why Trachycarpus and Rhapidophyllum are closely related is probably the result of a sheared ancester when Eurasia and North America where still connected as Laurasia. Still the flora of China and North America are very similair. For example Magnolias and Campsis are found in both parts of the world. Extinct in Europe though.

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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by redsquirrel » Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:30 am

i cant get enough of these Trachycarpus topics.after spending a lot of time at nigels and visiting anywhere that sells anything with a hint of exotic,i still cant tell 3 apart. apart from the waggy that is,so definately different, at least until dave posted the above one. i have a number of these trees,one of my most liked has about a foot of really hairy mammoth trunk with the leaves poking out the top,hardly any stem at all. i will pull it out and take a pic saturday,just another variation to throw in the pot
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Dave Brown » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:09 am

Keith, that is a rather fine Trachycarpus you have there, with a symetrical, evenly split, stiffer looking leaf. icon_thumright

DJ, Yours is the same as the bulk of the seedlings turn out, so a fairly typical Trachycarpus :D

Gary, Has yours been grown in shade? It has very long petioles.

Turtile, I'm really not sure wagnerianus is a different species, but at least is a different variety. As I said earlier My Trunky Trachycarpus seems to have some waggie-ish tendancies, with smaller, stiffer, more delta shaped leaves. Waggie I'm sure must have been bred for a long time to get the offspring to come true, and the palm must have been kept in isolation to stop reversion. Basically if you cross a Waggie with a Trachycarpus f, can't remember which one was male or female, you get a known cross..... an F1 Hybrid, but if you breed from that you get F2 which are very variable. What I may be seeing here is maybe Trunky being an F2 with waggie tendancies, crossed with a large leafed T. fortunei. Giving a wide range of offspring. But the pot luck is interesting. :wink:

Some more pics of the leaf shape. Base of leaf with hastula and part of petiole.

A more typical T.fortunei leaf shape
210507 Fred Flintstone Trachy Leaf.jpg
A circular 360 degree leaf. These are beautiful in a shelered garden, but are susceptable to stong wind damage.
210507 Pebbles Flintstone Trachy Leaf.jpg
The stiffer, more robust, delta leaf shape, good in Hurricanes :lol:
210507 Wintel Trachy Leaf.jpg
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by GARYnNAT » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:27 am

Gary, Has yours been grown in shade? It has very long petioles.
Yes Dave it was planted next to the big Phoenix canariensis_CIDP deep in the depths of the jungle that was :D , It came as a £14-99 bargain from a local GC and was planted as a filler, when I started to dig things up i was surprised just how much it had grown :D

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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by jezza » Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:39 am

My two.

Newest fortunei that i bought off steve (pheonix) and planted out last month...
HPIM5320.JPG

And the yellow wyvale bargain fortunei. You can see it's still yellow but the new leaves and spears are green. Been planted out 10 weeks now....
HPIM5321.JPG

Both together...
HPIM5322.JPG


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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by grub » Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:21 pm

Nice thread choice Dave icon_thumright ,it should be interesting to see how many wierd and wonderful Trachycarpus's we can turn up :twisted: . Here's two of mine. Trachycarpus 1 is very tall and elegant while Trachycarpus 2 is squat and ugly sister like :lol: . Both were treated exactly the same and were from the same batch of seed about 9 years ago.
They are now planted in similar conditions about 20 feet apart and in the same growing media icon_scratch
trachy1.jpg
trachy1leaf.jpg
trachy2.jpg
trachy2leaf.jpg
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Nathan » Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:29 pm

Dave, I have always loved your stripped Trachycarpus's... I remember reading your article in Chamaerops some years ago & thinking how tropical your palm looked compared to most Trachycarpus's. I wish everyone would strip their trunks as it really does make the palms look so much nicer, to me a big hairy trunk looks quite ugly!
Last edited by Nathan on Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Exotic Life » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:42 pm

Great pictures, here in the garden they also different from each other.. i will make some pictures in the next coming days.

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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by DavidF » Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:20 pm

My two are completely different in habit too. The larger one has very stiff fans, although is in a bit of a windy spot so looks a bit ragged. This is the one I pulled the spear on and after pushing a couple of distorted leaves out now is pushing what seems to be a nice healthy spear.
Trachy1.JPG
The other, smaller one had always had a very "droopy" habit. It's not wind damage as it's quite sheltered, all the leaves adopt this habit. I prefer the droopy one!
Trachy2.JPG
They are both in their "leap" year this year, so I'm hoping they take off a bit!
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Re: The many faces of Trachycarpus fortunei

Post by Las Palmas Norte » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:01 pm

Since at this point we're sticking with leaf form only, here a few oddities I have of Trachycarpus fortunei.

Cheers, Barrie.
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Trachycarpus 001.jpg
This first one has very small rigid leaves. At this point they're no more than 4" wide.
Trachycarpus 002.jpg
Strange, very little leaf form on this one.
T.wagnerianus.jpg
Another one with small irregular leaf form.
Trachycarpus 004.jpg
This leaf form is rather sparce. Few leaflets with wide spacing and is deeply divided.


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