Sunday, March 29, 2009

Palms Up!

Traveller's Palm ( Ravenala Madagascariensis )

This is my first Sunday since been back from Kuching. I thought how nice it would be if I walked through the farm in the early morning light and hear the birds sing. Next on my agenda was to check on the status of my oil palm trees . But along the way there were other palms that attracted my attention. More of that soon. Finally being a Sunday I'll venture out to town and later to the beach. What's up Bintulu?
I've planted many Traveller's Palm at my farm. They provide character and a welcoming gesture. No wonder they call it the Traveller's Palm. The broad leaves are like the palms of our hands waving as if calling the traveller to drop by at our tavern, hut or house. Strictly speaking it is not a palm but a member of the banana family. However, it is palm-like in habit i.e. having a single trunk and a crown of leaves that is one-sided and looking like a fan. So far none of them have produced any flowers here. I was told it would be a rare occurrence. Well, this travellin' man can wait.
Next I stumbled upon the slender looking Golden Cane Palm ( Chrysalidocarpus lutescens). At the far left of the picture in brilliant scarlet colour is the Sealing Wax Palm ( Cyrtostachys renda). Both are my favourite ornamental palms and I consider them excellent for house gardens.

This month the Ubah Laut ( Eugenia polyantha) trees are flowering through out Bintulu. At my farm there are hundreds of them planted along the farm roads. When I first planted the oil palm trees ( Elaeis guineensis) in the ground about two and a half years ago, the Ubah Laut trees were also planted at the same time to add diversity to the landscape. The picture on the right shows how beautiful the eugenia trees are when they flower. The whole crown is enveloped with creamy white and puffy flowers as if its snowing. Well, to share the limelight is the handsome oil palm tree. Now even though I say handsome don't attempt to plant it in your house garden because it can grow to a large tree. Best to plant them in big open spaces or parks or farm if you like farming.
The oil palm trees are planted all over my farm. That's where my pension is. The trees have an economic life span of about 25 years.

What's interesting about the oil palm tree is that the male and female inflorescence's are borne on the same tree. The picture inset on the right shows the female flowers. The female flowers grow on a branch around a single stalk. After pollination, the fruits grow into a compact bunch.

The finger-like male inflorescence's with pollen are frequented by weevils as pollinating agents.
The male flowers form a cluster of furry single spikes resembling a hand with out-stretched fingers. Pollen appear as powdery stuff on the spikes.

Red is the colour of money . These ripe fruits can be harvested. Fresh fruit bunches are showing up at every nook and corner over at the farm here. I guess by this time next year all the trees will be producing average size fruits. A mature oil palm will produce 8-12 bunches at any time though some trees here have been able to produce 15 bunches. ( Secret: Depending on your clone). In a month you can harvest a tree at every two weeks interval and there again from one tree you are likely to pluck only 3 bunches. Each bunch can weigh 10 - 30 kg over their economic life and peak periods. Bad news: In today's economic recessionary periods the price of FFB ( Fresh Fruit Bunches ) are just below RM 400 a ton for Grade A fruits i.e. those weighing 25 kg per bunch and smaller bunches will fetch lower prices. Say for the lowest Grade C at the point of writing is about RM 250 /ton which is just break even point. While about a year ago when the prices were good, the average FFB prices were RM 800 per ton. Such is the vast difference and brings home the point how risky is the oil palm farming business. * Sigh*.

Well, forget about bad times. Think of good times at the beach. The coconut palms are so typical of tropical paradise and romantic holidays. At the Tanjung Batu beach I saw children and families, friends and colleagues, strangers and visitors having good time picnicking, jogging, swimming, playing beach football, kite flying, grilling fish and chicken wings at the BBQ sets (provided by the park authority). And not to miss the fun I wound up the day sipping coconut water direct from the coconut fruit and yes at the beach. Had a nice weekend.

1 comment:

Protege said...

Wow, the fist picture is incredible, it looks like feathers!
How big is your farm? It looks as if you own a whole rain forest.;)