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Monday, December 23, 2013

Brahea armata - Blue Hesper Palm

The Blue Hesper Palm is a beautiful blue silver palm that could be planted more frequently in our landscapes native to Baja California. Growing to 40 plus feet elsewhere, it rarely makes 25 in cultivation. Though the closer you get to Baja the taller they will grow. When this palm flowers (typically in January) it is a sight to see. We were in SD and there were some blooming but I could not stop the car…. This one is at Stanford University.



The palmate leaves are bluish silver in color, 4-6 feet wide with a 3' long petiole. Petiole is armed with short stout yellow spines. Older foliage is held upright while the older leaves are facing down giving the plant a rounded canopy. As seen from below...



 The yellow spines.





Flowers are spectacular, though I have not seen them bloom here. In spring to summer (according to most references though I have seen them in SD blooming in winter) the flowers emerge out of the canopy on 15 foot drooping inflorescences, yellow over all color, monoecious.  This large one is on the campus of Cal Poly SLO.



Fruit are round, maturing brown.



Trunk is covered with thin leaf bases when young but will eventually become tan and smooth.



The leaf bases are quite thin, though they don't seem like they should be.



One of several specimens at the UC Berkeley BG.

Misidentification:
Unless its really small, not likely. However we do have a lot of Chamaerops humilis around that when young look somewhat like these but have much smaller leaves. Look for the yellow spines.

Location:
Santa Cruz
Riverside Drive and San Lorenzo- though they were recently pruned and have few leaves left they should look better in the coming years.

Soquel Drive and Mission at the Robobank at the corner. Beautiful smaller specimens.

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