Everybody knows what a cow plop is…right? By association, an elephant plop is just a plop from a different species. And much bigger. We’re talking about 50 pounds a plop! In Kenya, they call it elephant dung and it has a wide variety of uses such as making paper. Also, when dried and burned, the smoke cures severe headaches and will chase mosquitoes away. In Thailand, they feed elephants coffee beans, which are harvested after passing through the elephants and sold for as much as $500 per pound because of its distinctive taste. The Maasai use it to make their little houses which gives new nuance to the term ‘outhouse’.
Back in 2011, while traveling in Kenya, the Markel’s, who were with the Deutsch’s and Jeannie Schiavone, found a new and interesting by-product of elephant dung. In the Kenyan arid climate, the Doum Palm grows and flourishes. These palms produce a large seed that has a thick skin that is difficult to break; however, when an elephant digests it, the seed comes out with a crack in it. Only then will the seed grow into a Doum Palm.
Steve Markel thought that if he could obtain a few of these ‘processed’ seeds, he might be able to introduce the palm to Ocean Reef. No details or pictures of Steve searching the elephant dung for seeds are available, however, he did return with ten seeds, which he lovingly planted in a large pot back in Richmond. In spite of Richmond not having the best climate for Doum Palms, one of the seeds sprouted and Steve transplanted it near their house at Ocean Reef. The palm continued, albeit slowly, to grow and last year it was transplanted in the Ocean Reef Water Garden immediately behind the park’s dedication plaque.
This Doum Palm is just one of almost 100 different kinds of palms planted on Ocean Reef property. Besides Kenya, palms have come from Cuba, India, Haiti and Canary Islands. The Water Garden has the giant species, one of which is the Borassus Palm whose frons are the size of a pick-up truck bed. Private tours to view our diverse palm collection can be arranged through David Ritz’s office.
So, our thanks to Steve Markel, who will stop at nothing to better our Ocean Reef living experience…including sifting through powerful plop piles for processed plump palm pods of potent potables.