A Major Paranormal Event -- Shrinking Palms
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 96 13:54:35 -0700
Subject: A Major Paranormal Event -- Shrinking Palms
[Just wait 'til James Randi (The Amazing) hears about this! -psl]
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: DNWU64A@prodigy.com ( KEITH E SULLIVAN)
From: The Miami Herald, Sunday, April 26, 1996.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING PALMS: A REALLY TALL TALE By Carl Hiaasen
As soon as I heard about the Incredible Shrinking Palm Trees, I dashed to
the front yard.
A lone coconut palm grows there -- a robust but unruly 30-footer. I sat
down to watch it. Morning turned to afternoon, afternoon faded to dusk and
still nothing happened.
The tree didn't shrink one bit. In fact, it might have even _grown_ a
micron or two.
Needless to say, it was disappointing. I was hoping for one of those
magical shrinking palms.
Dade taxpayers bought hundreds, and they didn't even know it. The palms
came from the farm of Manual Diaz, a South Dade grower with friends on the
Metro Commission. Diaz supplies several types of trees to the county under
contracts that have brought his firm $9.2 million since September 1994.
Along Kendall Drive, Diaz Farms was supposed to plant 430 royal palms
between 28 and 30 feet tall. Yet, mysteriously, the trees today measure
only 22 to 24 feet.
It's the same strange tale of the tape along Southwest 117th Avenue. Diaz
got paid for 28-foot royal palms, but the trees stand at least four to six
The discrepancy is significant because the taller the palm, the more it
usually costs. Some officials are upset because they feel the county was
overcharged, paying $300 each for trees that were worth maybe $250 tops.
At first glance it sure looks like a towering rip-off. But Diaz Farms has
a fantastic explanation for why its palm trees were too short: They shrunk!
Shrunk like a cheap shirt. A Diaz Farms spokesperson postulated that cold
weather and the trauma of transplanting caused the palms to lose three or
four feet of height.
This amazing shrinking-tree phenomenon is so rare that many horticulturists
and landscape architects never heard of it. In newspaper interviews, some
even mocked Diaz's theory.
Let 'em. Some narrow-minded types still don't believe in UFOs or
While transplant shock sometimes causes fronds of a replanted palm to droop,
the height loss is temporary and relatively negligible. Usually it can be
measured in inches.
For a healthy tree to spontaneously shorten itself by 20 percent is
extraordinary indeed. For it to happen with _hundreds_ of trees
simultaneously is a major paranormal event, worthy of scientific attention.
Interestingly, the shrinking-tree syndrome isn't species-specific to royal
palms. It also struck 73 date palms, planted by Diaz Farms along Southwest
152nd Street. The trees were supposed to measure 14 to 16 feet, but the
tallest topped out at only 11 feet.
Apparently even innocent non-palms are at risk. Down in Homestead, Diaz
planted hundreds of tabebuias that shriveled by as much as seven feet. The
county had ordered 15- to 17-foot trees, but the ones now planted around
Avocado Drive stand only 8 to 12 feet high.
The difference in price: $40 a tree, paid for by taxpayers.
Since the county doesn't measure trees before buying, perhaps it ought to
order them pre-shrunk. The total estimated loss on the Diaz deal exceeds
Obviously this shrinking-tree outbreak is not to be regarded lightly. Given
it geographic range, I had high -- well, low -- hopes for my coconut palm,
which has grown too large for the yard.
But there's no sense kidding myself. It's not shrinking. Neither are most
of the other palm trees around South Florida.
That raises the eerie possibility that only those planted by Manual Diaz
Farms are supernaturally affected, in which case it should change its name
to Withering Heights.
© 1996 Peter Langston