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A Guide to the Best of Southern California : BROWSING : Tall Orders

Imagine spending $50 on what looks like a wide blade of grass. Lynn Muir considers it a steal for an African Jubaeopsis caffra seedling because he knows it will grow, in about 30 years, into a magnificent palm tree. Like the other 700 or so members of the International Palm Society who live between Santa Barbara and the Mexico border, Muir can’t contain his enthusiasm for palms. “They’re absolutely elegant plants and have more uses than any others,” he says.

That admiration spawned his Palms of the World Nursery in Dana Point. In its rain-forest-like setting are more than 400 varieties, from the shaggy-trunked Washingtonia filifera, the only palm indigenous to Southern California, to the hard-to-get Ecuadorean Parajubaea cocoides. It has a reputation for being so difficult to germinate that collectors treat it “like gold.”

About 200 types of palms--one of the oldest families in the plant world--do very well along our subtropical coast, says Muir, who also works as an architect. “Clients can end up with something spectacular.” Even if it merely resembles grass in the beginning.

Palms of the World Nursery, 34167 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point; (714) 240-1134.

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