This pano shows a zone of the Huerto del Cura (Priest’s Grove) garden and its own and worldwide unique specimen of an eight arm palm tree. In Elche, a garden can be understood as a plot of land planted with palm trees. Typically, these gardens are named after their owners or something particular to them.
The Huerto del Cura is a privately owned garden open to the public that belongs to the Orts family. It is an important part of El Palmeral d'Elx, the largest palm tree forest in Europe (see World Heritage WWP).
The Huerto is an Arab-Mediterranean style garden that covers about 12.000 square meters. It is rich in all sorts of palm trees but also in other flora such as cacti, myrtles, jasmines, gerania, orange or lemon trees, bamboo, yuccas, hisbiscus, rubber plants and many other Mediterranean, Tropical and Oriental species.
It is a beautiful garden and was recognised as a National Artistic garden in 1943. The Huerto has several different areas and ponds where you can not only find flora but also some fauna such as pond fish, frogs, birds and turtles (see Gardens WWP by Jose O´Donovan-Soler).
The most important piece of The Huerto, depicted in this pano, is a palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera) which is a unique specimen among its type: out of its main trunk, and far away from the roots, there are seven palm children that come out to form an eight arm palm tree (please let us know of any other such cases that you might know).
This botanical phenomenon is considered the jewel of the garden and is known as La Palmera Imperial (The Imperial Palm Tree), named to honour the visit to the garden in 1894 of Sisi: Elisabeth, Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dedicating a palm tree is an original and traditional ritual to honour relevant people that have proven human quality and have acted in favour of Elche, Spain or Humanity.
The Imperial palm tree is an elderly tree aging about 175 years old. It is nowadays being cared for with much attention and thus the metal braces helping it to keep up. This tree is considered one of the most important icons of the city, together with the Lady of Elche (see Gardens WWP by Sonia Zamora-Amoros).
Picture Location suggestion by Francisco Orts Serrano. Picture production by Antonio V. Garcia-Serrano.
Special thanks to: Maria Jose Rodriguez for putting me in contact with the relevant people and to Francisco Orts Serrano and Manuel A. Mas Mas, director and manager of the Huerto respectively, who very kindly showed us around and allowed us to shoot panoramas.
Francisco Orts Serrano, Jose Orts Serrano, Santiago Orts Perez. El huerto del Cura. Ediciones huerto del Cura, November 2000. Legal deposit: A-1062-2000.
Rolf Kyburz. Palms in Europe: The Palms of Elche. October 1995 issue of Principes, Vol 39 No 4 Journal of the International Palm Society.