Eunice had some things to do and had arranged to meet us around midday, to take us to the cycad collection of a prominent grower – Loran M. Whitelock (S1232). Loran holds a B.S. in botany and zoology, with a minor in microbiology. For many years he worked for the Los Angeles health department, until he changed careers to become a landscape designer. He has travelled to many countries to collect and study cycads, including Africa, China, and Mexico; author of the book ‘The Cycads’ (2002) – all according to the biography on his website. We just know that the 79 year old was a member of a small party that included Eunice that travelled into Baja California over Christmas 2008. As Eunice says: ‘Somebody had to.’
If yesterday’s visit to Lotusland showed us what could be achieved with mass planting, Loran’s garden took this concept to a new level – his garden, of somewhat over an acre in size was jam packed with plants – just about every conceivable cycad species plus an extensive range of palms, plus the smaller Agaves and Aloes (although there was also a monster Aloe bainesii that rivals the giant that grows at the Huntington Botanic Gardens). There was also the largest Elephant’s Foot or Pony Tail Palm that I have ever seen. Just as the common name is confusing, as the plant has nothing to do with any Elephant appendage and neither is it a Palm, so the Latin names are controversial with some authorities calling them Nolina recurvata, a member of the Agavaceae or the Nolinaceae, while yet others call them Beaucarnea recurvata, as a member of the Family Ruscaceae in the order Asparagales. Whatever the name, it was a spectacular plant. There was even something of interest for simple Cactus Explorers – various epiphytic cacti, again of mammoth proportions. We spent some three hours clicking away with our cameras on yet another sunny day and marvelled at how many huge plants it is possible to squeeze into such a small area.
I also learned that palms can take on many shapes and that some of the oldest plants in his collection were among the smallest and, I regret to say, not the most attractive ones. You have to be a real fanatic to call some of them ‘beautiful’.
All these delights were served up with cold Mexican beers. Another great day!