In the early 2000s, I began to notice many small seedlings growing in back lanes, at the base of walls or in cracks in pavements and realised that these were bird-sown seeds that were successfully growing; I have seen the fruit eaten by starlings, blackbirds and probably other species, including once an over-wintering blackcap in November 2001. The popularity of this semi-exotic `palm`, which grows and matures quite quickly, probably accounts for the upsurge of recent records. Incidentally, this year is a `fruiting year`, with many plants flowering and bearing fruit.
I now realise that my original finding of that cabbage palm at Sandy Bridge, back in 1973, was also a bird-sown seedling, emanating from a long-established decorative planting at West End, Llanelli, not far to the east or perhaps from one in a nearby suburban garden. The West End plantings were cut to the ground by the cold weather of winter 1981, but re-grew.
I have also seen many seedlings of cabbage palm in the west Swansea area.
Last week, I had my annual check-up with my dentist, and on the way out noticed a palm growing out of paving in the forecourt of the next-door hairdressers in Murray St, Llanelli. I had noticed this plant the previous year, but then it only had juvenile leaves and I had assumed (without looking properly) that it was `just another cabbage palm`. One year on, to last week, it had grown and it was clearly one of the true palms, almost certainly originating from a discarded seed from a commercial date, with Phoenix dactylifera cited as the overwhelmingly cultivated commercial date crop in warmer climes. Last winter`s mild conditions, coupled with the urban `heat bubble`, (plus the fact that it was outside a womens` hairdressers...and all that heat!) must have enabled it to survive a Welsh winter.
Phoenix canariensis is another palm that is cultivated as a garden plant and I have seen it surviving winters at (eg) Mumbles in Swansea and Burry Port in Carmarthenshire, but I`ve never seen one mature to yield fruit; another cultivated palm, Trachycarpus fortunei looks completely different.