Is there any group of people more neglected in the touristic sphere than palm tree fanatics? I mean, we all know a few, right? These “palm nuts” who just can’t get enough of their favorite tree, and travel the world on “palm-spotting” adventures? Actually, I’m not sure this is an obsession which anyone has, but if so… they’ll find their Disney World in the Palmetum, a botanic garden dedicated entirely to the world of palm trees.
I was feeling snarky when we parked and paid entrance to the Palmetum. “Oh boy. Palm trees. I must calm the restless beating of my heart.” But the park was more engaging than I suspected, and soon enough my cynicism was disappearing in favor of actual curiosity. Palm trees are actually not all that boring, and I started gobbling up information about them. “Jürgen, did you know this foxtail palm was only discovered in the 1980s?” (Unsure whether I was still in my mocking mood, he looked at me distrustfully.)
To be honest, I had no idea that there was such variety in palm trees… sure, I knew some produced coconuts, while others were cultivated for oil… but there are over 2500 species of palm! That shocked me. The Palmetum does its best to collect them all, in 12 hectares split between different global zones: the Canaries, Africa, Asia, and South America among them. There are also other trees, such as the African Baobab, banana trees (not a palm tree, I learned), and Polynesian noni plants.
But perhaps the coolest thing about the Palmetum is the ground upon which it was built. This used to be a landfill, shockingly close to downtown Santa Cruz, which was built up in the 1970s. Today the land has been spectacularly reclaimed for nature. The trees and ponds have attracted migratory birds, making this small city park a surprisingly good place for bird watching. And thanks to the height of its landfill-shaped mound, it offers excellent views of both the city and the coast.
I never expected to have such a good time at the Palmetum; I suppose the excellent weather also played a part in our experience. If you find yourself with a couple spare hours, and the desire to spend some time in a beautiful park, we can certainly recommend it.