It's a tall order as giant palm tree faces the chop at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

It is the oldest palm tree in Scotland and has been growing for more than two centuries.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 4:45 pm

But the endangered Bermudian fan palm, Sabal Bermudana, is now facing the chop - because it is too tall for its hothouse.

The tree, the oldest known plant in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE), is nearly breaking through the 50ft-high roof.

The palm is believed to have been transported nearly 4,000 miles from Bermuda to Germany before being shipped to the Port of Leith in the 1790s and planted off Leith Walk, where the RBGE had a site at the time.

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Growing, growing, gone.. the giant palm tree faces the axe
Growing, growing, gone.. the giant palm tree faces the axe

Its collection was moved in the 1820s to Inverleith, where the palm has grown ever since.

But the top has had to be trimmed in recent years to prevent it breaking through the glass roof of the tropical palm house.

As a result, it is 'losing vigour and producing less fruit'.

Thousands of plants are being moved out of the glasshouses so that renovation work can be carried out, but the palm is too large to be removed in one piece and it is to be cut down.

Horticulturist Simon Allan, RBGE's palm expert, said: “The Sabal Bermudana will be dismantled from the top down but it will have a legacy.

“There are dozens of its own progeny all around the bottom.

“We also have seedlings and over the years they have been put aside and grown on, so we have larger plants as well. Some will be moved to our nursery site so we can grow them on, ready for replanting after the refurbishment.”

Glasshouse manager Fiona Inches said: “Sabal Bermudana is the oldest known plant in our living collections and, as far as I know, the oldest palm in Scotland.

“Every plant is being removed for the [renovations] but Sabal Bermudana is reaching the end of its life. We will keep as much as possible for research.”

The endangered Sabal Bermudana is native only to Bermuda. Its sap used to make an alcoholic drink called 'bibby', earning the palm the nickname 'bibby tree' The RGBE's palm was still a pot plant when it was moved into a new tropical house in 1834. It was planted in the ground in 1910.

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