The avenue of 143 Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenixcanariensis) along the median strip of Mt Alexander Road was planted in about 1929 following relocation and duplication of the tram tracks. The planting is the largest and longest single planting of Canary Island Date Palms in Victoria.
The Canary Island Date Palm Avenue in Mount Alexander Road Essendon between Shamrock Street and Leake Street is of aesthetic and historical significance to the State of Victoria.
The avenue of 143 Canary Island Date Palms is of outstanding aesthetic significance and landscape value. The planting provides an important landmark and avenue planting along a major arterial road to central Melbourne and on each side of a central tram line. The good condition of the palms, and their uniform size, regular spacing and formal planting arrangement contribute to the importance of the avenue.
The avenue is historically important as the most substantial avenue planting of Canary Island Date Palms in Victoria. As such it is reflective of a particular period of popularity of palms in the 1920s, especially Phoenixcanariensis.
CANARY ISLAND DATE PALM AVENUE (PHOENIX CANARIENSIS) - History
The major arterial roads into the City of Melbourne are lined with avenues of trees to create grand entrances and boulevards. Those planted last century were planted with elms, planes and in St Kilda Road, Blue Gums were first grown and were later replaced by elms and plane trees. Elms, oaks, cypress and a few other species were planted as Avenues of Honour from 1918, after the First World War.
The avenue of Canary Island Date Palms is an exception to this planting theme and is the only substantial road planting of Phoenix canariensis in Victoria. An alternate planting with Lophostemon confertus occurs along Albert Road in South Melbourne. Small avenues are planted at the St Arnaud and Mildura Cemetery, Great Western Winery, Catani Gardens at St Kilda and is interplanted with Washingtonia robusta and Butia capitata along the main entrance in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. In 1919 a row of 42 Canary Island Date Palms were planted around St Vincent Gardens in South Melbourne.
The only other major palm plantings are in the Mildura area where Washingtonia filifera are planted as avenues and rows along roads and date from about 1896.
Canary Island Date Palms were not planted in Victoria prior to 1890 and there are only a few known palm plantings from the early 1900s. A commemorative planting in the Royal Botanic Gardens is dated 1903 and is the earliest known planting. They were widely planted in Victoria after the First World War and popular during the Edwardian period and are a strong landscape theme of the 1920-1930s.
History of Place:
Mt Alexander Road was the main route to the Bendigo and Castlemaine gold fields, and the rural towns in north and north-western Victoria. In 1883 the Plantations Committee was appointed by Council and their recommendations created the, "beautiful plantations in Mount Alexander Road". The Committee recommended that, "Mount Alexander Road north of Shamrock Street be planted with a double row of trees to its intersection with Bulla Road, at a sum not to exceed 50 pounds". Council placed a large order for young trees and accepted tenders within a few weeks for 500 guards.
It is not known what species were planted but the Committee recommended that in streets less than one chain in width only deciduous trees be planted, and in streets of more than that width evergreens and deciduous trees be planted alternatively. The trees the Committee intended to plant are, "different kinds of Elms, Turkish Oaks, Silver Poplars, and for evergreens Pinus Insignus, Halpensis [sic] Cedars, and Grevillea robusta".
The tram line to Essendon was opened in 1906 and ran along the west side of Mt Alexander Road and is shown on MMBW Plans of this time. In March 1929 the tram track were relocated and duplicated into the centre of the reserve from Essendon Station to Keilor Road It is unknown when the Canary Island Date Palms were planted, but it appears that they were planted following completion of these works. There is no evidence of the palms in a 1924 photograph of Mount Alexander Road.
Since the mid 1980s twelve mature palms (6 in 1984-5) have been transplanted to replace missing palms. A car park was constructed in the northern island between Marco Polo Street and Leake Street in about 1988.
Description of Place:
An avenue of 143 palms, extending 820 metres in the Mt Alexander road reserve. The palms are planted opposite one another. Shamrock Street to Thistle Street; West - 27 palms, East - 27 palms; Thistle Street to Thorn Street; West - 24 palms, East - 22 palms; Thorn Street to Marco Polo Street; West - 11 palms, East - 11 palms; Marco Polo Street to Leake Street; West - 10 palms, East - 11 palms
The measurement of an average palm is; Circumference: 3.0m; Height: 7.5m; Canopy Spread: 7.2m (1985). The two rows are 13.4m apart and the palms are at spacings of 8.3m.
The palms are planted in a grassed median in three of the islands , while the northern island has been asphalted and is used for car parking. Fortunately the palms show no ill affects. The two rows of palms are planted to either side of two sets of central tram tracks laid in bluestone gravel edged with bluestone blocks. Down the centre is a row of tram poles erected in 1929, but with new side arms.
The palm avenue is in good condition. Annual maintenance includes the under pruning of dead fronds and the removal of seedlings from the crown. The major weed is Copromsa repens.