THE SABAL PALM

THE SABAL PALM

...by September there was only one plant left in this old glass house - The Sabal Palm. It is the longest-lived plant in the Living Collection of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

A massive reconstruction will take place on the Tropical Palm house of RBGE and because of that it will be closed for the next 7 years. It is already decanted as part of RBGE’s Biomes Project. By September there was only one plant left in this old glass house - The Sabal Palm.

The Sabal bermudana is the longest-lived plant in the Living Collection of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It's precise age is unknown but it is more than 200! It has been part of the garden’s collection since 1822 and living in the glass house since 1874. The Sabal bermudana is a red-listed endangered species, endemic to Bermuda, and this extraordinary Edinburgh Sabal is likely to be amongst the oldest palms of its kind on the planet.

This is why I had a quick visit to Edinburgh - to illustrate the Sabal Palm before it is dismantled. Sadly due to its age and size, the Sabal Palm can not survive a move. In September 2021, we attended this special tree’s funeral.

Before this giant tree was dismantled, Jacqui Pestell and I likely had some decent amount of time in the glass houses to prepare some sketches and develop some ideas on how to illustrate such a giant creature. Although we had a good experience working on life size Titan Arum triptych together, none of us worked on such a big subject like this palm three, well, a giant subject more precisely. Illustrating this tree is a little scary as well as exciting.

In this short visit to the RBGE, we only completed some quick sketches and gathered ideas, hoping those will lead to future big big illustrations. Stay tuned for this ongoing project!

They’re sort of quite, sentient… presences. You know, you feel the energy of this big old thing. It is like being in a room with an elephant, or in a boat when a whale comes up. 

Simon Allen, Glasshouse Horticulturalist

 

We’ve got a lot of long-lived staff here. They’ve spent the best part of their career here nurturing and growing these plants… the plants are their babies.

Fiona Inches, Glasshouse Supervisor

 

It is probably a bit of a gulp moment, a wake-up call… we’re going to lose plants. It doesn’t rest easy, but we hope that we’re going to leave it in a better place, and as custodians that’s what we should always try and aim to do.

David Knott, Head of Living Collections

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