(Canadian Press)

Halifax to test palm trees in harsh winter climate

Nine palm trees have been planted in four Halifax parks, although the jury is out on whether they can survive winter

Atlantic Canada’s largest city has a new, and highly unlikely, tropical flavour.

Nine palm trees have been planted in four Halifax parks, although the jury is out on whether they can survive winter in a North Atlantic city known as the Warden of the North.

The parks, all on the Dartmouth side of Halifax Harbour, now feature cold-hardy palm varieties that can grow in more northerly climates of Asia like China and Japan, or from areas of the continent with high altitudes such as northern India.

The varieties include windmill and miniature Chusan palm, which are native to parts of Asia; needle palm, which is found in the southern U.S. states like Florida; and pindo palm, native to South America.

Municipal horticulturalist Chris Poole said aside from wanting to see if the palms can survive, it’s also part of his job to create public interest and to encourage people to enjoy the city’s public spaces.

“I think by planting these palms around we’ve certainly achieved that and more,” said Poole, who noted windmill palms as a tall variety that look like a typical palm tree.

“They are certainly the ones that are creating the most buzz because when you take one look at them it just looks as if you are in a different part of the world,” he said.

Palms are grown elsewhere in certain parts of Canada, most successfully in Vancouver — one of the warmest of the country’s big cities during winter.

By contrast, the minimum daily temperature in Dartmouth averages minus 8 degrees Celsius in January and February, according to data from Environment Canada. And temperatures can dip well below that during typical cold snaps.

Ben Freeman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Biodiversity Research Centre, is skeptical of Halifax’s palm plan although he “applauds the ambition.”

He said the trees’ keys to survival in more northerly climates are cold and frost tolerance.

“Unless you actually go and try you don’t know whether they will survive, but I’m guessing that Halifax is too big a jump right now with current climates for palms,” Freeman said.

Still, Freeman thinks Halifax’s experiment is “pretty interesting,” because climate change has made colder places a little bit warmer.

“It really is true that you can plant palm trees a little bit further north than you used to be able to 50 years ago,” he said. “But I don’t have high hopes for the long-term survival of palm trees in Halifax.”

Egan Davis, lead instructor of horticulture training at UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver, said he sees the windmill palm as the only species with a chance of surviving a winter climate like Halifax.

Halifax has planted exotic species with various degrees of success in the past, including coffee and pineapple.

Most recently, an agave bloomed last month in the city’s renowned Public Gardens. The plant had spent most of its life in the city greenhouse before being transplanted outside this spring, drawing curious crowds.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ponoka’s Ronnie Racing wins Hot August Night

About 15,000 people filled the Castrol Raceway stands at the motorsports complex

Ponoka County residents divided on farmland uses

There were about 150 people at the county’s meeting related to reducing confined feeding operations.

Ponoka County slows changes to CFO plans

Residents speak their concerns over the potential of changing areas allowing CFOs

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth this year

Ponoka Traffic Unit investigate scooter incident

A motorcyclist appears to have lost control of her Suzuki scooter on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Vintage vehicle subject of RCMP search

Two Hills RCMP seek to identify owner of recovered 1940’s vehicle

Canada’s tax system unfairly favours wealthy, poll of CRA auditors suggests

Four of every five respondents think loopholes and tax credits built into the system benefit the rich

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

The plan would allow for more visitors but wouldn’t let Sunshine build additional facilities

Publication ban lifted on details about Fredericton shooting that killed 4

Judge lifts publication ban on court documents related to the Fredericton shooting

Feds to allow charities to engage in political, but not partisan, activity

The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions

Photographer files complaint with police after alleged assault on the job

Toronto photographer says he was attacked while covering a protest

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

Most Read