This exotic palm species with its bold accent, dramatic scale, uniform growth pattern and tolerance to drought was highly favoured in formal planting schemes.
Of the six remaining Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) four are planted as a row along Hickson Road and two are located in the foreshore lawn area adjacent to the Park Hyatt Hotel. They measure approximately, height 6-8 metres (clear trunk) with canopy spread 7-8 metres. The remaining palms appear in good condition and health.
This group of Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) although not the original planting is significant for it’s aesthetic value and its continuation of commemorative plantings and civic landscapes established during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dawes Point Reserve (part of the broader contiguous open space of Dawes Point Park) is an important component of the City’s public open space and is scheduled in the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 and classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).
This planting is also significant as many public collections of this species throughout Sydney’s eastern suburbs have been decimated over recent years by introduced fungal pathogens in the soil.
Dawes Point Reserve is an extremely prominent harbour-side location. In 1908 Dawes Point Reserve trustees were appointed to oversee improvements and the flat portion east of Hickson Road was planted with Canary Island Date Palms and Port Jackson Figs.
Following the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Dawes Point Reserve and Park was replanted during the late 1920’s with a row planting of Canary Island Date Palms along the promenade and others more centrally located in the park together with scattered Figs. This related to foreshore reclamation and the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction works. These were clearly visible in photographs of the bridge when it was completed in 1932.
In 1943 nine palms were still evident in the park. The palms along Hickson Road to the north were transplanted specimens installed in 2006 during footpath widening. Some planting in the park was also removed during the Park Hyatt Hotel construction in the 1990’s.
In 2005 nine mature palms were still recorded within the lawn area of the park, however, damage from Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, chewing large holes into the upper trunks lead to the progressive death and removal of most of the palms from 2007 – 2010, despite attempts to control the problem. Some of the internally located palms were moved to fill the gaps in the row planting and these have also subsequently been destroyed by the Cockatoos. The remaining palms are all recent transplanted specimens and not original planting. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is currently considering a replacement strategy with a different species of palm.
The Canary Island Date Palm was popularised by J H Maiden Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens 1896-1924. It is historically associated with commemorative plantations and civic landscapes established during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (including the Inter-war Period). Significant public collections of this species throughout Sydney’s eastern suburbs, including group planting, formal rows and avenues, have been decimated over recent years by introduced fungal pathogens in the soil. Centennial Park has been particularly affected by this problem. Replacement planting schemes using the same and other palm species (eg. Washingtonia spp.) have failed, thus leading to the use of alternate tree species.