The Franceschi Palm is the mystery Brahea. The true origin in habitat is still uncertain and now known only from cultivated specimens in California. It is also most unlike other Braheas and is generally considered to be a variety of Brahea aculeata having similar coloration with rainbow-like bands and shades of bluish-green. This palm differs in being much slower growing, much more cold-tender and with a softer leaf, as well as a more diminutive stature. The softer leaf implies hybridization with Brahea brandegeei, however, if this were so, since Brahea brandegeei is the fastest growing Brahea; it should be faster than Brahea aculeata. Another conundrum; Brahea aculeata and Brahea brandegeei also are considerably more cold-hardy. Perhaps it is a relict species now reduced to rarity in the wild. A seed grown specimen growing at the Huntington Garden
from seed collected by modern explorer Myron Kimnach on an expedition to Sinaloa Mexico appears to be similar; though larger and faster growing than other older collection specimens. The Franceschi Palm's sole introduction into horticulture was through the California Nursery
in Niles, California (now known as Fremont, California) by John Rock. Any of Rock’s original surviving Brahea elegans in the Northern California area have yet to be located, although, there are a few known in Southern California
The above Brahea elegans photographed in 2004 at the Dick Douglas garden survived the freeze of 1989 when temperatures dropped below 20° F.
The coldest December morning in 1989 was when minimum temperatures dropped to 14° F one night and durations of 16 hours or more of temperatures less than 28° F were observed in many locations.
Even though the trunk is not tall, it's a fast growing Brahea palm. In 2004, it grew 13 fronds in a 12 month period. If the fronds are damaged from cold, it will replace them quite rapidly.
This species in the garden:
photo by: Dick Douglas
Dick Douglas Garden
Growth rate: very slow
Sunlight: full sun
Cold Tolerance: 22° F
Seed or plant availability: very rare