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How we began and where we are today

rarepalmseeds.com was founded by Toby Spanner and Martin Gibbons.
Our stories begin the same way: after being bitten by the palm bug many years ago we began growing palm trees as a hobby. Over the years each of us has turned that hobby into a serious business, so that we now run similar palm nurseries which are the leaders in their field in Germany and the UK, respectively.

During our first meeting we discovered that we shared an interest in lost or poorly known palms, and decided to join forces in the search. Our very first expedition together was to China in an abortive search for Trachycarpus nanus, not seen for 100 years. Armed with more accurate information, we returned the next year and did the job properly. In order to bring this "lost" species back into cultivation, we decided to sell some of its seeds to other palm enthusiasts. These seeds appeared on the market for the very first time in 1992. During that trip we also came across Musella lasiocarpa, a fabulous banana relative. The seeds of this plant had also never before been available. Next on our hit list was T. martianus, a palm which, like so many other palms we were to visit in habitat in later years, turned out to be so common in the wild and yet so rare in cultivation. Before our expedition to relocate it, the only seeds available were those from the few trees at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California. Since 1993 we have sold many thousands of seeds, from T. martianus populations in both northeastern India and Nepal. During subsequent trips to southern Asia we discovered three new species of Trachycarpus: T. princeps, T. latisectus, and T. oreophilus. Each of these new species has been scientifically described in 'Principes' [now 'Palms'], the journal of the International Palm Society. Our most recent addition to the genus is T. geminisectus from northern Vietnam, described in 'Palms' in 2003.

From one major expedition each year we progressed to two, and then added an annual Christmas expedition. The world was our oyster; there were so many rare (in cultivation, that is) and little-known palms just waiting to be re-located in the wild and introduced to general cultivation. If we couldn't collect the seeds ourselves we engaged local help. Sometimes our searches took us to strange destinations: Pakistan and the Sudan are not usually thought of a holiday destinations, yet trips to the deserts of these two countries yielded many thousands of seeds of Nannorrhops ritchiana and Medemia argun respectively. You could say that was the jewel in our crown; Medemia was thought to be extinct until we rediscovered it, alive and well, in the Nubian Desert.

We encourage our customers to try new species, species which we know are quite wonderful. Seeds of many rare palms are easy to germinate, easy and fast to grow, regularly available, not expensive, and very beautiful. Some are slowly gaining popularity, but for many it is an uphill struggle. Many seeds that we have introduced have never been on sale before, and it gives us great satisfaction to know that many palms on sale throughout the world, and growing in botanic gardens and the backyards of ordinary people, are there as a result of our endeavors.

rarepalmseeds.com has grown from simply a way to distribute some new and rare seeds collected on our palm expeditions to being the number one supplier of rare palm seeds in the world, now exporting to well over 100 countries. Today rarepalmseeds.com is run by Toby and his ever-growing team of employees.

We always make every effort to offer you the best and friendliest service. With us you can be sure of species purity, correct identification and extraordinarily high germination rates at low prices: that´s the advantage of buying through rarepalmseeds.com

Our reputation is your guarantee. We love what we do, and think that is reflected in our work. See for yourself!

Toby Spanner lives in Munich, Germany with his fiancée Lauri
Martin Gibbons lives in London, England with his wife Emma

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