Flores, Flores and Palm Trees

Gregorio Flores Flores has a good name for a nursery guy, and he lives up to the name. His Flores father married his Flores mother from a different Flores family, and that’s why the double-flowered name. Maybe a love of plants is in his genes. Love his palms and other plants he certainly does. His nursery, Tierra Generosa (Generous Earth), is a thick jungle of palms, fruit and flowering trees, orchids, ferns, bromiliads and more, on the outskirts of Todos Santos, Baja Sur, Mexico. He points out that his plants are exotic, “Without exotic prices.”

Most of Flores’ business, though, is in supplying and trading with nurseries in La Paz and San Jose. He employs two workers. Flores said he became interested as a teen in palm trees, in particular, when he worked mowing lawns for his uncle while living in LA. Since then, he says, he wanted his own nursery and dreams of a palmerium, an arboretum specializing in palms where he can concentrate on developing quicker growing palms that are endangered in the Baja’s natural habitat. He has actually already been doing some of that by developing some faster growing and hardier varietals.

Flores ended up here after a friend invited him to visit at his parents’ home in La Paz a few years ago. He stayed in the city for six months before discovering Todos Santos on a side trip.

“It’s a gifted place,” he says enthusiastically, “Perfect for these plants.”

Flores doesn’t use any commercial fertilizers or repellants, preferring to use horse dung. He advises mixing the dung or cow manure with water to make a “tea,” and later using that as a spray to keep bugs at bay. This has the added advantage of keeping the plant’s natural immune systems working well, he says.

Flores says he’s sure that he has a greater number of palm species than any other grower on the Baja at an estimated 150 in his collection. About 100 are available for sale. The most popular, he says, is the Cuban Royal Palm, a slim and elegant tree that grows quickly here and has white stripes around its green trunk. Flores says his favorite is the Beetlenut Palm. He points out a Princess Palm too, otherwise known as a Hurricane Palm, with reddish new leaves. He says it’s one of the most salt tolerant palms, necessary to growing well on the Baja Peninsula. He pets a Teddy Bear Palm whose trunk is a soft, fuzzy brown. He says King Palms are popular too, and he has a hardier giant version for the Baja than is commonly grown in the State of California.

The nursery’s small to large trees and plants are from Asia, Africa and other parts of the world, as well as some native to the Baja. Flores shows off a bluish tinted palm called Blue Areca; its Latin name, Dypsis Cabade, from Madagascar. The nursery’s Cycas Circinelis is actually a giant, hardy looking prehistoric fern from Africa and Thailand that looks like a palm at first sight. Flores says it grows well here in Baja Sur.

It’s hard to keep up with Flores when he begins giving all of the common and the Latin names, but Flores says he has Chaerops, Phoenix, Dypsis, Psychosperma, Hyophorbe, Veitcha, Aranaga, Butia, Elais (Oil Coconut), Shelia, Sabel, Latanea, Sygarus and four Brahea species. Only a couple of these grow on the Baja naturally. He also has over 100 types of bromiliads, plants that grow, “in the air.” He pulls one, a prehistoric looking plant hanging from a palm, showing it’s large, red, center flower, and then hangs it up again.

Flores also grows Sylvester Orchids, nestled in amongst the palms and other trees and plants, and has begun growing yellow, pink, purple and blue water lilies in the small ponds that have formed to the side of the spring and creek that runs through the back of the nursery. Flores even has a couple of plants that haven’t even been identified yet, including a Cycad that looks a bit like a round pineapple sitting on the dirt, but with a more delicate neck and longer fronds.

The plants grow huge along the creek. He indicates a number of banana trees – he has 20 species – some with large bunches of fruit, and hanging from each bunch is a giant flower from on long, thick stem. He carries jackfruits, breadfruits, mangosteens, Brazilian cherries, African oilnuts, litchis, cashews, Brazilian Dates, star fruit, and even some medicinal plants, including Nonis, used for several different medical conditions. He says the Serenoa Repens are supposed to be helpful for managing cancer and the Chamedorea and Enterpe Oleracio for diabetes.

On the highway to La Paz, just outside of Todos Santos, you might not notice the small white sign on your right for Tierra Generosa. It’s surprising to turn into the drive and see that the nursery stretches far back through a ravine of rushing water, and it’s a wondrous adventure to take the tour with Flores through his tropical jungle.

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