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Postfire resprouting of Chamaerops humilis

March 18th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

“A few, but only a few species of palms, are, like our Coniferae, Quercineae, and Betulineae, social plants : such are the Mauritia flexuosa, and two species of Chamaerops, one of which, the Chamaerops humilis, occupies extensive tracts of the ground near the Mouth of Ebro and in Valencia …” — Alexander von Humboldt (1848)

Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean dwarf palm) is the only native palm in continental Europe, and the northernmost naturally occurring palm in the world. It is native to the western Mediterranean Basin, occurring along the Mediterranean cost of Spain (as mentioned by Humboldt), Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The other palm occurring in the Mediterranean Basin is Phoenix theophrasti, a rare palm growing in the Crete island and in the southern Turkey [MedTrees].

Humboldt probably did not know that Chamaerops humilis resprouts very quick after fire (at that time fire was not considered as part of the natural processes). The resprouting of this species does not necessary come from new dormant buds (as in most typical resprouters) but from the normal apical buds protected from the fire by the leaf bases in the stem. In fact, buds generate leaves that have the upper part affected by the fire, but not the lower part (as in all monocots, the meristem is at the base of the leaves, and thus more protected from the heat of the fire). Consequently the first leaves often show the typical burned-brown-green pattern of the photo below. In addition, it can generate basal suckers from an underground rhizome. C. humilis often flowers very quickly after fire, together with the first leaves (upper photo). Overall it is very resilient to recurrent fires.

Chamaerops-humilis
Chamaerops humilis (one of the few ‘social palms’ following Humboldt) 2-3 months postfire in the Valencia region (eastern Spain; photos: JG Pausas)

References

Humboldt, A. von (1848). Aspects of nature (original title: Ansichten der Natur, 3rd ed).

 

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