Raveneas - 'I don't get no respect'
Raveneas are the 'Rodney Dangerfields' of the palm world. If they could talk, you would hear, "I don't get no respect." Compared to all their brethren from the island of Madagascar, this genus seems only now to be gaining attention, or respect. This is surprising given the ease of growth and beauty of some of the newer introductions. It is unfortunate that Ravenea rivularis was the first species to make it into cultivation. While it is indeed a beautiful palm when grown correctly, not many have been so fortunate. It takes a committed gardener to provide the constant water and nutrients it commands. And because there were so many pathetic looking individuals around when subsequent Raveneas were introduced, many palm growers passed in favor of other selections.
However, those who took the risks are now reaping the rewards provided by some of the many newer species that are finding their way into gardens the world over. Perhaps the first Ravenea widely introduced after R. rivularis was Ravenea madagascariensis var. 'monticola' These palms, now approaching 20 years old, have matured into magnificent specimens. This author is unaware of any reports that these now-trunking palms have begun flowering. (Click on the discussion tab above and let us know if you have seen or know of any.)
A real gem of a species was widely introduced about 10 years ago: Ravenea glauca has rapidly become what may be the most popular Ravenea among collectors to date. Its moderate size, adaptability, and sheer beauty make it a perfect candidate for many locations. Along with its surprising cold hardiness and speedy growth, it has turned into one of the most desirable palms for a temperate garden. There are reports of flowering palms in California with less than one foot of trunk. So perhaps this attractive palm will be seen in more mainstream gardens in the future.
Another of the successful first introductions was Ravenea hildebrandtii. It is another smaller Ravenea, even more compact than R. glauca. Its wider leaflets and tendency to maintain a crown with many leaves adds a tropical look wherever it is planted.
Perhaps the most gorgeous and sought after species is the hard to find, and hard to grow Ravenea albicans. This slow growing palm appears to require at least a warm subtropical climate where it grows very slowly. It is the only Ravenea that exhibits the same silver underneath the leaflets that its ancient relative, the Ceroxylon, exhibits.
Just recently there have been a rash of new Raveneas available with exotic names such as, Asokafana, Manompana, and Maringo. The described species such as Ravenea robustior, Ravenea lakatra, and Ravenea sambirinensis, are also becoming available. Many of these new introductions have the potential to become as desirable as any of the other magnificent palms of Madagascar, and certainly should not be overlooked. It is important to remember that Raveneas are dioecious, so unless you have a grouping of several individuals, you may not obtain fertile seed. This is unfortunate, because it will make it that much harder to perpetuate some of the more desirable species. It should be assumed that because most collectors will have several species in a confined area, it is possible that cultivated seed may be the result of hybridization.
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