Palms succumb to a hostile environment in Mexico City

Species such as Phoenix canariensis, of Paseo de la Reforma, are originally from the Canary Islands, Spain, and belong to coastal areas. It could be an opportunity to replace them with some Mexican natives.

Palms succumb to a hostile environment in Mexico City
Phoenix canariensis: Hostile environment in Mexico City is a threat to the palms. Photo: UNAM

Even though cities are not their original home, palms or palm trees (both terms are appropriate) in Mexico City are adaptable and resistant, they survive, but it is not their ideal environment, and these conditions weaken them, even making them more vulnerable to disease, explained Ivonne Guadalupe Olalde Omaña, from the Institute of Biology (IB) of the UNAM.

After the removal of the emblematic palm tree from Paseo de la Reforma due to a disease caused by a beetle known as "Picudo rojo" (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), of tropical origin, the tree specialist mentioned that they can also be attacked by fungi and bacteria.

Any of these affect the growth part, the most tender or delicate is at the tip and in the center, which is where the leaves emerge; when this area is damaged, the whole palm dies. It is not like a tree that has several branches.

It is difficult to determine when the disease starts because as they are tall plants it is difficult to see at that height if any pathogen arrives. Sometimes we realize it until we observe that the leaves dry up and begin to bend; when this happens, it is an indication that the damage is advanced.

The recent death of palm trees in various places in Mexico City has been the sum of unfortunate events, because these organisms are not Mexican, but was removed from the place where they naturally grow, that is, from coastal areas.

The alluded palm is of the Phoenix canariensis genus, which comes from the Canary Islands, Spain, it was surrounded by pavement, in a small space, in addition to the fact that in the Mexican capital we have a period of abundant rain and then a period of drought; it is not the best condition.

There is a record of palm tree mortality, as happened in 2013. It started in coastal areas and then in the state of Hidalgo, and since then there was talk of the red palm weevil.

The natural capital of palms

It is an opportunity to replace the palms (when they die) with native Mexican species that are more suitable for the City. It would be ideal if a look could be taken at the plants of Mexico that are native to the region, the diversity and natural richness, in addition to verifying which variety is appropriate for each site.

In Mexico City, if a tree is planted that reaches a height of 20 meters, such as an ash tree (native and the most numerous in the country's capital) and there are cables four meters high, it will be trimmed again and again, then it will start to lift sidewalks if it is attached to the house.

It is necessary to make a good choice and think about each site, determine what space is available both on the ground and in the aerial part, and detect, for example, if it bears fruit. Tejocote and capulin are ideal for parks, but perhaps not for sidewalks.

According to information from the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, in the Canary Islands, honey is obtained from this palm and an alcoholic beverage known as guarapo is made from it.