It is hard to imagine that within a 100 years of a small quantity of Kentia seed arriving on Norfolk Island that Norfolk would become the world’s largest exporter of Kentia Palm seed. That is amazing for a little island, five miles long and three miles wide, located almost 1,100 miles off the east coast of Australia.
It took the vision of one Norfolk Islander, and a lot of hard work to see that dream come true.
The original Kentia seeds that T.B. Wilson brought to Norfolk Island were germinated and planted at various locations around the Island. Each year more trees were planted from seedling germination. Most trees were grown in small numbers around island homes.
During World War Two a Norfolk Islander named Ivens “Pullis” Nobbs, while serving with the Australian Armed Forces in North Africa, and on R&R leave, saw Kentia Palms displayed as decorative plants in various luxurious locations. “Pullis” was aware that his father had planted twelve trees on the family’s property from the original seed T.B. Wilson had brought to Norfolk Island. He believed that the seed harvested from those, and other Kentia trees on Norfolk Island, and sold to European Kentia seed buyers, could have been the finished product he saw in North Africa. A vision for his own Kentia Palm plantation on Norfolk Island was born!
When Ivens returned from war service he began to clear the family land and plant out Kentias in quantity. There were some plants available from the early seed that had been brought from Lord Howe Island, but Ivens needed more. He decided to make a trip to Lord Howe Island. As T.B. Wilson had done in the previous century he traded Norfolk Island Pine seed for Kentia Palm seed.
( This is a great picture of Ivens in his elder years )
Pullis” cleared his land using hard manual labor. He germinated his Kentia seed that he got from Lord Howe Island in a wet creek bed in a valley on his property. All this he did primarily in his spare time.
Many of the people on the Island said that “Pullis” was mad to plant palms, firstly because one couldn’t eat the seed, ( back then Norfolk Islanders still lived a mainly subsistence lifestyle ) and secondly because of the length of time required to get a return on the investment. It took many long years of hard physical work planting and maintaining the palm groves. However, the trees gradually grew and developed seed. “Pullis” did not live to see the mature plantation when it reached its full potential, but he enjoyed the vision in his mind’s eye for many years.
Today “Pullis” Valley is the largest Kentia Palm plantation on Norfolk Island. It is the realization of the dream “Pullis” had imagined, coupled with unceasing hard work over four generations. Ivens “Pullis” Nobbs is recognized as the pioneer of the Kentia Palm industry on Norfolk Island. He was instrumental in its expansion through his encouragement of other Islanders and residents to also grow and cultivate Kentia Palms.
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