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A 'frond' farewell: Palm tree outgrows Des Moines Botanical Garden

Iowa City resident Ron Allen donated the tree to the Des Moines Botanical Garden back in 2009. But before that, he was growing the Cuban royal palm on his own.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is bidding a "frond farewell" to one of its tallest plants, according to a Facebook post

The Cuban royal palm tree, which has been in the conservatory for more than a decade, has grown too tall for the building. 

The large, divided leaves of the palm, known as fronds, are now brushing the top of the glass dome and could damage the structure if left unattended.

As such, the garden plans to cut down the palm on Monday, March 20.

"It will give us an opportunity to maybe bring new plants in. . . [we'll] be able to celebrate some different selections of plants that we might not have thought about because the palm was growing," said Aaron Harpold, director of horticulture for the garden.

Iowa City resident Ron Allen donated the tree to the garden back in 2009. Before that, he was growing the Cuban royal palm on his own.

He wasn't exactly sure what he was getting himself into when he brought home some seeds from a trip down south.

"I just picked up some seeds when we were in Florida, put them in a pot, off they went, at least one of them anyway, and took right off," Allen said. "So [it] lived outside in the summer, brought it inside through the winter. And within just two or three years, it's like... all the way to the ceiling."

Allen said the tree was sort of like his baby; he couldn't stand the thought of killing it. 

So, instead, he reached out to the Des Moines Botanical Garden, and they said they would be happy to take it.

"Anytime we were in Des Moines, we would stop in and visit, write, check on it, see how it's doing those kinds of things," Allen said. "But we knew this day would come but because we know how those trees work and the height they get to."

Credit: Ron Allen

The good news is that Allen has more plants at his place currently that came from seeds he found in Hawaii and Fiji. He even plans to donate more to the botanical garden. 

"You can dream big and you can have the tropics here in Iowa," Allen said. "You can have palm trees on your patio or on your screen deck or wherever it is. If you can't get there on vacation, bring it to your own self."

The Des Moines Botanical Garden is inviting guests to visit the conservatory and bid the palm a "frond farewell". You can share your photos of the Cuban royal palm using the hashtag, #frondfarewell 

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