Thursday, January 12, 2012

Death of a Phoenix

Palms are a common sight in Malta, with the warm temperatures affecting the islands throughout most of the year being a perfect catalyst for their growth and proliferation. This said, indigenous species amount to just one - the low-growing, bushy Chamaerops humilis L., now practically extinct in the wild.

Chamaerops humilis L., photographed by Aron Tanti

The recent invasion of the red palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier, 1790) has affected several of the ornamental palms of the genus Phoenix.

Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier, 1790) from www.cm-oaz.pt
 
The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera L., is a historically important North African species that may be distinguished by leaves arranged in wide silvery fronds. The picture beneath shows this species of palm affected by the Rhynchophorus beetle.

Phoenix dactylifera L. affected by the red palm weevil in Santa Venera, Malta

Phoenix sp. in Rome, Italy, with the one on the right showing symptoms of red palm weevil infestation

Phoenix canariensis Chabaud is a Canarian endemic which is frequently planted around the Mediterranean, not least in Malta. Unfortunately it is also affected by the weevil in question and several stately specimens from around the island have been destroyed.

Phoenix canariensis Chabaud in the main road of Floriana, Malta

The inhabitants of Tenerife certainly make excellent use of their endemic palm species!

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