Of the approximately 100 species of Chamaedorea palms, Lotusland’s collection in the shade palm garden holds about 40. The plants of Chamaedorea at Lotusland were the reference collection that belonged to Don Hodel, a botanist and palm expert that literally wrote the book on the genus. These slender palms grow in the rain and cloud forests of Mexico, Central and South America and most are small in stature. They can be stemless to 15 feet tall although one species, C. elatior is more vine-like, clambering through vegetation for 60 feet or more. Leaf shape among this genus is quite diverse with many having pinnate (feather like) leaves while others may be undivided or with a notched apex. These palms like consistent moisture and are great in low light situations. One in particular, Chamaedorea elegans, or the parlor palm, is a very common house plant.
The rocks with the fantastic shapes that are found in the shade palm garden are called concretions and are often composed of Calcite. Concretions are a mudstone, often formed in nearshore oceans or lakes where mud settles out and compacts. Over geologic time the mudstone is heated and compacted and often have random layers of Calcium Carbonate within that helps to cement the layers together and make them less susceptible to erosion. Madame Ganna Walska purchased the rocks from a source in Southern California and at one point they were all painted as part of what she called a kid’s garden. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Mae West, circus elephants and many other whimsical characters were represented. As they weathered, the paint all but disappeared.