~ Parajubaea cocoides ~
Quito Coconut, Cold Hardy Coconut


Height: 60' Growth Rate: medium to fast Climate Zones: 14-17 to 16 degrees Origin: Ecuador



Canary Island Date Palm Trees

Now here's a cool palm! Parajubaea cocoides, or the "Quito Coconut" as they prefer to call it in its native home of highland Ecuador, is a gorgeous feather type palm very reminiscent of the True Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) which is impossible to grow in Northern Calfornia without extreme microclimate modification. Not to get off the subject, but there are a few rogue True Coconuts scattered around Southern California which have weathered many Winters outdoors without any special protection- the most famous being the "Newport Coconut". But since we don't live in Newport Beach, our next best option for coconuts is Parajubaea.

Parajubaea is closely aligned with the True Coconut tree, as is Jubaea chilensis and several other rarer palms. It is thought that over its course of evolution, Parajubaea and Cocos nucifera were the same plant and then became geographically separated; Cocos remaining in the lowland beach shores of the hot tropics, while Parajubaea slowly and methodically climbed the Andes.
My personal theory on the separation is this: a random mutation occurred in a True Coconut that produced abnormally small seeds. These seeds might have been small enough for ground animals or large birds to carry and relocate at higher elevations- thus eventually causing the palm to step up the mountains through progressive generations like one would climb a staircase. This may explain why, although almost exactly the same in appearance and structure, the Cold Hardy Coconut seed is about 1/50th the size of the True Coconut seed. The chief reason the True Coconut is not naturally found at very high elevations is that its seed is too heavy and large for animals to carry very far from where it fell. It chiefly relies upon water and tides for its dispersal. There is probably a scientist out there that might prove me wrong someday - but that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

But we all know for sure what happens when you climb a tall mountain - it gets colder as you go up. This is how Parajubaea gained its cold hardiness. One of its cold protection adaptations was to keep its insulative, hairy frond base material firmly attached to the trunk of the tree to a much later stage than does the quickly self cleaning True Coconut (you'd feel like getting naked too if you lived where the True Coconuts do). Like Trachycarpus, the center heart of Parajubaea - which is the most cold sensitive part of the tree - will always be encapsulated by this natural form of insulation unless manually removed. As the tree grows older, and the heart moves higher up following the canopy, the lower fronds do eventually fall off leaving a clean, hard trunk.

Parajubaea can grow as fast as a queen palm if situated in the right environment. Since the tree is from a relatively, and constantly, cool climate at elevations ranging from 3000' - 9000' in the Andes of South America, Parajubaea dislikes heat. Heat seems to be fatal to the tree in inland locations and many parts of Southern California.  Finally, we have a tropical looking palm that thrives in Northern California better than Southern California- it=92s almost always the other way around.  The ideal climate for Parajubaea is the fog tempered stretches of Northern California coastal climate zone 17 such as San Francisco, Oakland, Monterey . . . etc. Remarkably, during the great freeze of 1989, a tree survived 16 degrees at a secret garden in Walnut Creek, CA known only to palm society members. Wanna see it? Join the Palm Society and maybe there will be a meeting there again. However, there are even better examples at Lake Merrit Garden Center in Oakland- which loyal palm society members maintain at their own expense.

What's so fun about Parajubaea- besides the miniature edible coconuts it produces- is the fact that you can watch the plant actively grow right through the Winter and into Spring unlike most palms which shut down their growth in November and don't resume growing until April. The immature fronds have a very beautiful tropical look about them as they are unsplit (entire). When the tree reaches 4' - 6', the fronds split up looking similar to the King Palm. The fronds are dark green on their upper sides, and silvery on their undersides. The tree can have an ultimate spread of 25' at maturity and can reach 60 feet tall or higher. The tree grows at a fairly rapid clip and seems to be able to put on a foot of trunk per year once it reaches maturity in 10 - 20 years after germination. Several other newly available species of Parajubaea look very promising for our region as well and we will be seeking them out to offer at our nursery in the future.


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