This was a Jubaea chilensis, or a Chilean Wine Palm, and one of my favourite trees in the Botanical Garden of Coimbra – Portugal – when I was a guide there. I spent 5 years guiding school students through the Garden and this was one of the species that always got a look of surprise out of them. How could a palm tree possibly make wine, if everyone knows that the vine is the plant responsable for making this drink?
This particular exemplar had nearly 180 years and was the only one in Portugal this old. Our Botanical Garden is part of a program that exchanges seeds all over Europe to protect endangered species and the Jubaea chilensis was always requested. Did you know that this species only starts to blossoms when it reaches 60 years? And that it can reach 5m of diameter in the basis?
It was a truly amazing tree…a baby still… and now this is all that was left of it. From what I could gather there’s a parasite, or fungus, (I’m not sure) that its infecting palm trees, without any kind of preference from one specie ou another and the Chilean Palm Tree was just one more in its path of destruction… It was a sad day for me.