The Arizona Palm and Cycad Association is dedicated to increasing the availability, knowledge and enjoyment of palms and cycads suitable to the lower Sonoran Desert environs of the Phoenix and Tucson area.

Our next meeting has not been scheduled yet. Please check back!

If you would like to become a member or host a meeting, please contact Mark Kiah

The Arizona Palm and Cycad Association evolved through the common interest of local enthusiasts passionate about palms and cycads. We endeavor to increase the knowledge, propagation, availability, landscape use, and overall enjoyment of the many species of these plants suitable to the lower Sonoran Desert environments. Because of the extremes of temperature (both hot and cold) that we experience here, many people are surprised to discover the large number of palm and cycad species that thrive in the Phoenix and Tucson regions. Members of our group have been successfully growing more than four different genera and seventeen different species of palms and more than seven different genera and fifteen different species of cycads. The palms and cycads in the photos on our web site are all growing in Arizona.

If you would like to learn more about growing and enjoying new as well as established species of palms and cycads in the Sonoran Desert or would like to share your passion and achievements with others, please join us!

In memory of Loran Whitelock

John Lavranos and Loran WhitelockOn May 27, 2014 Loran Whitelock died peacefully in his sleep at his legendary home in Eagle Rock, near Los Angeles, California. He was 84 years old. His wife, Eva predeceased him by 7 years but Loran kept their home as it seemingly always had been: with a world class collection of art and artifacts on the inside and a world-class collection of cycads outside. Simply put: it is impossible to overestimate the importance of Loran Whitelock’s role in the cycad world today. Certainly in the United States there is no one whose name and achievements are more widely known than his and no one in the US has a cycad collection that does not contain at least one plant that originated from Loran. Attesting to his almost celebrity-like status, he was almost always referred to simply by his first name and anyone conversant in cycads knew who was meant. And fittingly, two cycad taxa bear his name: Encephalartos whitelockii, and Ceratozamia whitelockiana. Among his many achievements, Loran’s book, “The Cycads” is the definitive guide to the world’s cycads. Reading the acknowledgements within is now a remarkable testimony to the many cycad people he was involved with through the years… people who ultimately were drawn to him and became his friend. Accordingly, he was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Cycad Society in the USA, receiving the honorary plaque less than one month before he passed away. Undoubtedly the comment most often heard about Loran is “what a gentleman he was”.

As an indefatigable collector, he completely immersed himself with the objects of his fancy. Reptiles, insects, birds, Tiffany lamps, Oriental art, fossils, and single malt scotches were among his many passions through the years. But when he “discovered” cycads in the 1960s, he knew then that this was to be his life’s work. For over 50 years he traveled the world bearing witness to plants in habitat; collecting, photographing, growing, trading, selling, and never stopped acquiring new cycad species. His “Cycad Gardens” include not only stunning specimens in the ground, mostly in the genera Encephalartos, Dioon, Ceratozamia, and Macrozamia, but three large greenhouses crammed with the most amazing Zamia, Ceratozamia and other tropical genera. Of Loran’s cycad collection it has been said for many years that it is one of the finest private collection in the world. Every visitor that was fortunate enough to tour Loran’s garden came away gushing praise, not only for the remarkable cycads and other special plants, but for his generosity of spirit and endless supply of stories and cold beer. As Ken Hill once referred to him “that famous doyen of the cycad world” will be missed by a great many friends and colleagues. It is gratifying to know that though the man is gone, Loran Whitelock’s achievements will live on!

Photo - Loran Whitelock (right on photo) and John Lavranos in April 2010 when both attended the bi-annual national CSSA conference in Tucson, Arizona. The photo was taken in the garden of Monte Crawford with an Encephalartos dolomiticus in the foreground, a plant which John described with co-author Douglas Goode. Both Loran and John were hosted by the Arizona Palm and Cycad Society. Photo by Monte Crawford. [John Lavranos’ wife, Mireille, passed away on 19 May 2014 after a long illness. John is the author of a number of Encephalartos species and a well-known collector of plants. Ed.]

This article was posted with permission of the Cycad Society of South Africa

The Effect of PH on Plant Nutrient Availability

Ph effect on nutrient uptakeby Monte Crawford
Pinal County Master Gardener

This graph shows the relationship between pH and nutrient uptake; in other words, if your soil/water pH is too high or low, spend your money on amending them rather than on fertilizer. The thicker the bar, the more available nutrient.

The easiest way is to put an injector pump in line on your irrigation system. Chemilzer and Dos-a-tron and check the outflow as you would your pool pH. Either unit can be had for just over $200. If this sounds high, consider that latifrons seedling you just bought... and give it what it needs.



The Black Sphinx Date Palms of Phoenix

By Brad Hall

Hidden away in a little Phoenix neighborhood is a cluster of some of the most beautiful, and rare, palm trees in the world. They are called The Black Sphinx Palms, an unusual variety of Phoenix dactylifera. What makes them unusual and rare is the fruit, which is unique to this variety, but what makes them beautiful is what anyone can see in the Arcadia neighborhood where they have been growing for over 70 years. And they are found nowhere else in the world.

Black sphinx palsm

The Black Sphinx Date Palms of Phoenix.

I visited this neighborhood today along with our Association Vice President Monte Crawford, and I can truly say that is well worth the trip. These giant beauties create a canopy that makes this neighborhood absolutely magical. A few blocks away, where the palms no longer stand majestically, the magic vanishes. Currently there is some controversy about the local power company, Salt River Project, wanting to cut some of them down, even paying homeowners to do, as these giant trees are growing too close to power lines, threatening a fire hazard or power outage. Many people in the neighborhood are worried about losing these beautiful trees, so hopefully some compromise will be reached between the power company and the homeowners. These heirloom trees make this neighborhood, and it wouldn't be the same without them.

If you want to visit this neighborhood, go south on 44th Street just below Camelback and look for the biggest cluster of the biggest palm trees you have ever seen in your life. You can't miss it!

By the way, I am informed by one of our members that you can't grow a Black Sphinx Date Palm from the seed of one of the fruits - you need to plant an offshoot, and trees this old don't produce any. When they are gone, they will be gone forever.

The article from Arizona Central about the homeowners trying to save trees from SRP

A great article by Niki D'Andria of The New Times for the "Hidden Valley" Category about The Mysterious Date Palms of Phoenix

Some of the past meetings of the Arizona Palm and Cycad Association

By Brad Hall

Saint Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery FlorenceApril 13, 2013 at St. Anthony's Monastery, which is located eight miles south of Florence, Arizona, off Highway 79. The tour of this beautiful oasis in the desert was conducted by the Arizona Palm and Cycad Association Treasurer, Mark Kiah, who was instrumental in helping St. Anthony's with their extensive planting of palm trees in the late 1990s. Just inside of the entrance, as the group arrived, one of the monks was pollinating a Phoenix Dactylifera, which is grown not only for its beauty but for its delicous and nutritious dates. The grounds of the monastery has an eccectic combination of various palm trees and desert plants along with annuals and roses.

Afterwards the group enjoyed a delicous lunch at Mount Athos Restaurant and Cafe.

May 13th, 2012, at the home of Monte and Cynthia Crawford in Apache Junction, Arizona. Duke Benadom, former president of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (national) and a frequent traveler and speaker gave a presentation of his recent trip to Uganda and Encephalartos whitelockii. Drinks and light refreshments were served.

Phoenix dactylifera black sphinx

Phoenix dactylifera black sphinx with Arizona Palm and Cycad Association member Leo Martin at the ASU Polytechnic Campus, Mesa. Photo by Brad Hall.

May 21, 2011, at the Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, which is located at the former decommissioned Williams Air Force base in Mesa, Arizona. There are 138 Date palms of about forty different cultivars planted there, including the Black Sphinx cultivar. Date palm experts Ron Palmer, volunteer, and Deborah Thirkhill, Program Coordinator for the ASU Arboretum, gave a tour and talk for the group. To find out more about getting involved as a volunteer at the ASU Arboretum, go to Ground Services Volunteer Program and contact Deborah Thirkill. After the meeting, several of the members, along with all of the club officers, met at Rubios to enjoy burritos and tacos. It was an excellent and informative meeting about the importance of preserving the quickly-disappearing varieties of Phoenix dactylifera here in Arizona.

June 19, 2010, at the home of Rodney Anderson of Phoenix. He gave a presentation on his visit to Argentina including photos of palms, cycads and historic sites. Rodney is likely the best grower of cycads in Arizona and because of his prolific collection, seating was limited to 15 people, which quickly filled out... folks came from as far away as Palm Springs (300+ miles). Sodas and light refreshments were served.

April 4, 2009, at the home of Monte and Cynthia Crawford in Apache Junction, Arizona. John Lavranos was our guest speaker. John Lavranos is perhaps the preeminent botanical explorer and adventurer of the later part of the 20th century. He has described several African Encephalartos and many succulents. His slide show will span nearly 50 yrs of his travels. The topics included African cycads, arboresent aloes and xerophytic dracaena. This gathering was open to all members of the Arizona Palm and Cycad Association who are currently paid as of 2009 dues as well as members of the National Cycad Society. As usual, food and drink were served.

palm trees in Phoenix, Arizona

A beautiful display of different types of palms that grow well in Phoenix, Arizona. This is at Bob Claesgens' growing yard in south Phoenix.

October 18th, 2008, at a private garden in Phoenix Arizona. Palm expert Bob Claesgens hosted at his tropical paradise in South Phoenix. Of especial interest were examples of his cross of Phoenix rupicola and Phoenix reclinata. Bob states that the rupicola, although a beautiful palm, is much too slow growing and that the cross of it and the reclinata provides a quicker-growing tree with all of the beauty of a rupicola. There were also examples of Paurotis and Sable palms and many cycads. The meeting went from 1 p.m. to about 4:30 p.m. and refreshments were served including some very tasty chocolate-chip cookies!

April 26, 2008, at a private garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Arizona palm expert Scott Walkowicz presented on his recent trip to Santo Domingo. Refreshments and food were served. Palm and cycad seeds were distributed to all current paid members of the association. Members brought palms and cycads for sale. The meeting began at noon and the presentation went from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. followed by a short officers meeting.

February 2, 2008, at a private residence in Phoenix, Arizona. The festivities began at noon, with a presentation by palm and cycad expert Tom Broome of Florida at 2 pm. Tom is a famous authority on propagation and growing in general. He shared two decades of knowledge and tips on cycad and palm cultivation, including very interesting information on cycad propagation. Membership in the association was not required. Refreshments were served.

November 10, 2007, at a private residence in Apache Junction, Arizona. Renown cycad expert Loran Whitelock was the guest speaker. His presentation was on "Possible Cycads for the Phoenix Climate" which included Ceratozamia hildae, Ceratozamia zaragozae, Ceratozamia zoquorum, Cycas angulata, Cycas basaltica, Cycas beddomei, Cycas brunnea, Cycas cairnsiana. Cycas calciola, Cycas couttsiana, Cycas furfuracea, Cycas lane-poolei, Cycas media, Cycas megacarpa, Cycas panzhihuanensis, Cycas platyphilla, Cycas pruinosa, Cycas taitungensis, Cycas tanshachana, Dioon califanoi, Dioon caputoi, Dioon edule subspecies edule, Dioon edule subspecies angustifolium, Dioon holmgreni, Dioon merolae, Dioon purposii, Dioon sonorense, Dioon tomaselli, Encephelartos caffer, Encephelartos cerinus, Encephelartos cupidus, Encephelartos cycadifolius, Encephelartos dolomiticus, Encephelartos dyerianus, Encephelartos eugene-maraisii, Encephelartos friderici-guilielmi, Encephelartos ghellickii (grass veldt form), Encephelartos hirsutus, Encephelartos horridus, Encephelartos humilus, Encephelartos inopinus, Encephelartos laevifolius, Encephelartos lanatus, Encephelartos latifrons, Encephelartos lehamnni, Encephelartos longifolius, Encephelartos middleburgensis, Encephelartos nubimontanus, Encephelartos princeps, Encephelartos trispinosus, Lepidozamia peroffskynana, Macrozamia communis, Macrozamia diplomera, Macrozamia dyeri, Macrozamia fraseri, Macrozamia glaucophylla, Macrozamia heteromera, Macrozamia johnsonii, Macrozamia macdonnellii, Macrozamia moorei, Macrozamia riedlei, Macrozamia stenomera, Stangeria eriopus, Zamia angustiolia, Zamia encepharlartoides, Zamia furfurcea, Zamia inermis, Zamia lucayana and Zamia spartea.

April 28th, 2007, at a private residence in Scottsdale, Arizona. Members brought their plants for sale or trade. Bryan Brown gave a presentation of his trip to the Amazon.

October 28, 2006, at a a private garden in Apache Junction, Arizona. Susan and Bruce Ironmonger presented slides of their recent trip to cycad habitat in South Africa. Hard-to-find Australian cycads were available for purchase. Refreshments were served.

Growing cycads from seeds - or How do I get this cycad seed to become a cycad?

Adapted from The South African Cycad Journal, originally written by Danie Nel

It's easy! Just follow these simple steps and watch your cycad grow!

Congratulations! Thank you for doing your bit towards the survival of the cyads and creating a friendlier, healthier world for all to live in!

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

By Brad Hall

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

This Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (bottle palm) has found a new home in the greenhouse of one of our members.

The Bottle palm is from Round Island in the Indian Ocean which is part of the Mascarene Island group. There are said to be fewer than 15 specimens left in its native habitat.

The Bottle Palm has a large swollen (sometimes bizarrely so) trunk. It is a myth that the trunk is a means by which the palm stores water. Bottle Palm has only four to six leaves open at any time. The flowers of the palm arise from under the crownshaft.

Bottle palms are very cold sensitive and are killed at 32°F (0°C) or colder for any appreciable length of time. They may survive a brief, light frost, but will have foliage damage. Only southern Florida provides a safe location in the USA to grow Bottle Palm, although mature flowering specimens may be occasionally be seen in favored microclimates around Cape Canaveral and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater in coastal central Florida. It makes a fine container-grown palm in other locations as long as it is protected from the cold and not overwatered.

While habitat destruction may destroy the last remaining palms in the wild, the survival of the species is assured due to its planting throughout the tropics as a specimen plant.

Palm Watering Guide

By Mark Kiah

Although palms can be planted any time of the year, it is important to carefully monitor the amount of heat or cold the site experiences for six months after planting to insure success. Palms slow down or stop growth completely during our cooler months and when planted during this time may take as long as 6 months to establish new roots due to lower soil temperatures.  At this time, they will need less water and fertilizer.

Watering twice weekly in winter is usually enough although, in soil that drains well, 3 times a week is okay.  Palms establish roots quickly during our warm months (April-October) due to the higher soil temperatures.  Trees planted from early spring through summer usually set new roots in 2-3 months

Watering three times a week is best during summer months when temperatures exceed 100 degrees.  Daily irrigation is allowed in fast draining soils, however in heavy clay, watering every other day with a longer cycle will allow deeper watering and encourage roots to grow deeper.  This will help them stay cooler in summer and will minimize leaf burn.  Skipping a day between watering also allows good soil drainage so roots can absorb the oxygen they need to stay healthy.

Cycad Posters — “Key to the Species of Dioon”, “Key to the Species of Ceratozamia”

dioon posterCeratoszamia posterThe Cycad Society is now offering a “Key to the Species of Dioon” and "Key to the Species of Ceratozamia" posters for sale, beautifully printed in full color and suitable for framing. The price is only $20 plus shipping. To order a copy, contact Tom Wichman, the Education Director of The Cycad Society, at Proceeds from the sale of the posters will go toward cycad research, conservation, and education.


The International Palm Society

The Arizona Palm and Cycad Association is an official chapter of the International Palm Society

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Updated October 22, 2014


Dioon edule cycad
Dioon edule.
A cycad in a private garden, Glendale, Arizona.

Phoenix canariensis
Phoenix canariensis. The Canary Island Date Palm. Private garden, Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Encephalartos horridus
Encephalartos horridus cycad. Private garden, Tucson, Arizona.

Phoenix dactylifera
Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as a date palm. These beautiful and elegant palms are a natural in the desert and give a true "oasis" look. The cactus is a Trichocereus terscheckii from Argentina. Private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix rupicolaXreclinata
Phoenix rupicola x reclinata palm. Date palm cross. Private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Dioon garden
Dioon garden, Various Dioon species (cycads) underneath the shade of Palo Brea trees. Saguaro cacti in background, citrus in the foreground. Private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Encephalartos ferox
Encephalartos ferox cycad. Large coning male cycad. Member's private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

silver bismarck
Bismarckia nobilis. The Silver Bismark palm. Private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Cycas circinalis
Cycas circinalis. The "Queen Sago" cycad. Private garden, Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Cycad planting
Cycad planting, private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Encephalartos whitelockii
Encephalartos whitelockii cycad Informally referred to as the Lake George or Maganga River Falls cycad. Named after Loran Whitelock. This specimen is growing outdoors in a pot that is designed for excellent drainage. Private garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

The Living Cycads
The Living Cycads by Charles Joseph Chamberlain (pdf of the entire book) published in 1919. From The Internet Archive.

'Living Fossils' Just A Branch On Cycad Family Tree - on NPR

Hot: Create a Garden that Beats the HeatHot: Create a Garden that Beats the Heat
The Victory Garden PBS video
. Hot - Create a Garden that Beats the Heat. Rare cycads in Southern California.

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