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Ponytail Palm in bloom - must be a blue moon!

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Ponytail Palm in bloom - must be a blue moon!

Maybe it’s because of Auckland’s dry spell; maybe it’s got something to do with the Moon - who knows?

What we do know, though, is that the Ponytail Palm in the grounds of Auckland’s historic Ewelme Cottage has burst into bloom - an event that only happens every 10-15 years.

And although the exact explanation for why the Ponytail Palm chose to start blossoming at this particular time may not be known, Amy Gaimster of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is excited to see it flower.

"The rarity of this plant blooming is what makes it special. When it flowered in the 1950s, for example, it was considered significant enough for the Auckland Museum botanist to send photographs off to Kew Gardens in Britain," she says.

The Ponytail Palm - or Nolina recurvata - is a native of Mexico, though the species is believed to have been introduced to England in 1845.

"Mature specimens, like the one at Ewelme Cottage, can grow to heights of about four metres, and in its dry habitat, the base swells to contain water - which is a rather handy feature, particularly when there hasn’t been much rain."

Ewelme’s specimen was bought at a church fair in the early 1900s and given to Blanche Lush - wife of Rev Vicesimus Lush, who built Ewelme Cottage - to add to her collection of potted plants that stood on the verandah of the Parnell cottage.

"It was fairly clear, quite early on, that this particular plant was no shrinking violet," says Amy.

"Blanche recorded that it grew so quickly it broke out of its pot and was planted out in the garden. We think that was in about 1910 or 1911."

Blanche’s plant is still making its presence known - and has caused something of a stir among some of the visitors to the historic Parnell cottage.

"One gentleman thought he had seen a similar palm in his neighbour’s back garden and was going to check it out. Another man identified it as being the same plant as one he saw when he visited the Yves St Laurent garden in Morocco," says Amy.

"Either way, the Ponytail Palm is a rarity - and we’re delighted that it has decided to make its presence known once again after so many years. We’re not sure how long it will remain in flower, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on it."

People wanting to see the Ponytail Palm can visit Ewelme Cottage, which today is cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Located in Parnell’s Ayr Street, Ewelme Cottage is open to the public every Sunday (10.30am-4.30pm).

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