Locals champion protection of the 'Cretan' Date Palm

Posted: 10 Nov 2009

Julia reports:
"The stand of palms at Vai is threatened by an enormous development of a golf resort on the nearby Cavo Sidero. This development on an area of Special Scientific Interest and home of many endangered plants and animals, is being dealt with by the Greek courts at the moment. There has been a ruling against the current plans, but of course there has been an appeal. The development consists of three golf courses, accommodation for 7,000 people, restaurants, pools, and even an athletics stadium. The Flowers of Crete botanist, Dr Rosemary John, and I have been over to the site and to Vai on several occasions this year and we can only hope that this development is never allowed to go ahead."

Then to add to the threat, the non-native 'Red Palm Weevil' has been found in the area. This pest species is believed to have been accidentally introduced into Europe on imported mature palms from South America where it occurs naturally. This pest is already spreading around Europe, especially in warmer areas and is a serious threat to many species of palms both ornamental and native. The grubs of the weevils feed on the palms resulting in the death of the palm directly or weakening it so much it is vulnerable to being knocked over in storms. Again Julia reports:

"We are very saddened to have to tell members and supporters that, last week, Rosemary found a dead male specimen of the destructive Red Palm Weevil in the square in Elounda. This insect is a threat to the endemic Cretan Palm forests at Vai and Preveli and every effort needs to be taken to try to stop its progress. It has been found in Aghios Nikolaos and along the coast between Heraklion and Milatos, where many infected trees have already died.

All the relevant authorities have been informed and we will let you know what steps are being taken to control this threat.

In the meantime, we are sending out a photograph of this weevil. If you find this insect, please destroy it and keep the remains. Please photograph it and send details to us at Flowers of Crete, so that we can pass the information on to the authorities. Severely affected trees have to be destroyed, but other trees in the area can be sprayed and pheremone traps can be set to capture flying weevils.

As you can see from the attached photo, which is the weevil that Rosemary found, it is a large insect and a strong flyer.

Rosemary and I have been in touch with Kallia Pediatitis at MAICH - the Mediterranean Agricultural Institute - who has made a comprehensive study of the Cretan Palm and we are taking advice from her on the ways that Flowers of Crete can help with passing on information. The town council of Elounda is also aware of the situation and will be taking steps to deal with it.

John Fielding, co-author of Flowers of Crete, has generously offered to write an article for our next newsletter and there will be more information on the threats to P. theophrastii in the October issue, which will be sent out early next week.

Please pass this information on to anyone on Crete who may be interested in this problem. The more people who understand the dangers, the better the chances of making a difference will be"

A recent update makes for grim reading:

"The news gets worse. Someone telephoned this evening to say that they had found 25 weevils on their balcony. Someone else got in touch to say that they had just lost seven mature palms. I have sent out a plea to our members to find out if anyone has seen it any further east towards Vai. As far as we know it isn't on the south coast yet, so Preveli should be safe from this threat at least for the time being. We have alerted all the authorities and we are having posters made to distribute in the towns along the north coast. It seems like an impossible task to protect the palms at Vai, but we all have to pull together to at least make the effort. I appreciate Tony posting my message here and would ask any members who have any connections with Crete to pass the information on, together with my photo of the pest. I have set up a group on Facebook called Save The Cretan Palm and I would appreciate feedback there and a concerted effort to recruit members from around the world to pool our resources and information. If you would like to receive our newsletter and haven't signed up for it yet, please go to www.flowersofcrete.info   - you will find a request form there. We will then keep you up to date on this and other news from Crete. Thank you everyone for your help and concern. Julia"

Lets hope it isn't too late for action to be taken to secure this endangered palm species.

Red Palm Weevil
Red Palm Weevil

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