Interested in DIY adventure travel, exploring, and organising your own expedition?

This is a request for like-minded people (ten or so), from any nationality, to come together to organise their own expedition to that remote destination you always wanted to explore, but never got around to.

It may be that you lack the confidence to go it alone, or the logistics and cost has been prohibitive. What I am proposing here is that you come forward to discuss where you want to go and what you wish to do when you get there. If we can get enough like-minded people together, who want to go there then we can pool our resources and organise that expedition much easier and cheaper than if you were to try and do it on your own.

The destinations I am referring to are generally those that may be extremely remote like Madagascar, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia etc.. Or less remote, but nevertheless difficult for one to organise on ones own like China, Vietnam, Mexico, or even Africa and Australia. I’m not suggesting you do anything touristy like visit cities and temples, although these things are usually unavoidable.

Like-minded people are those with an interest in the natural world. You may be an academic botanist or zoologist needing to study a particular species, a geologist interested in a mountain range or formation. But you could also be a complete novice with an interest in ornithology, or you just want to see a wild tiger before they go extinct. Whatever your background, if you want to do something really special and adventurous in your lifetime you can, by pooling together with like-minded people to undertake an expedition or field trip everyone gains in the shared knowledge of the participants, the security of travelling together, and the reduced logistical costs.

I envision these field trips and expeditions to be of the duration of a few weeks to a couple of months. Longer trips are not out of the question, but I can tell you from my own experience that expeditions lasting longer than a month become tedious, tiring, and generally much more difficult. Besides, many people can’t spare the time, and people invariably become irritating when you travel for too long with them.

And to give you an idea of what to expect, it is more often the case that most of the time is spent in hotels where we make excursions out into the field. Sometimes we work out of a base camp, other excursions might entail a 5 day trek through a rain forest where we hold up each night in hammocks. Some countries insist that we employ at least one guide to travel with us especially if we have a collecting permit. In most cases it is preferable to have a motor vehicle, mini bus, truck, car or boat, to give us the freedom to get us and our kit close to where we need to go, it then works as our base camp. The itinerary is decided by the species we set out to see, and the minimal amount of effort needed to get in, see that or those species and get out.

About me
I’m not the kind of person who likes to ‘blow my own trumpet’ and talk much about myself, however, I understand that in the context of this you do need to know quite a lot about me.

My name is Phil, I am male, 48 years old, married with two teenage boys, British, based in Cornwall, Southwest UK. And I own Trebrown nurseries and this website. My academic background is in biology and geology, but I specialise in botany and palaeobotany, mainly [Arecaceae] palm trees, [Cycadae] cycads, [Musaceae] bananas, [Pteridophyta] ferns, and conifers especially Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae. My interests extend further than this though and I am fascinated by everything in the natural world, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and fish.

I maintain a high level of fitness, but would not go so far as to say I am fanatical about it, I generally eat healthily, but can, on occasion eat junk, and I have been known to consume large levels of alcohol (never out of context). I’m a keen cricketer and play throughout the year. I run and work-out regularly. When I was younger I was keen on hang-gliding, climbing and kayaking, but these days my only adventure sports include scuba diving and hiking, with the occasional bit of tree climbing.

I have received military wilderness survival training and logistical training in planning and moving large volumes of equipment, kit, and personnel, in and out of combat zones. I’ve been trained in first aid (certificate now expired). I am fluent in conversational Mandarin Chinese, and I speak basic Indonesian/Basa Malay. I hold an open-water scuba diving licence.

I also hold a driving licence to drive any motor vehicle with the exception of high capacity seating PCVs (busses), though I’m licensed to drive 16 seaters, HGVs of all classes, automobiles, motorcycles, and have been highly trained to operate vehicles in all terrains – off road in remote locations. Also to maintain and fix vehicles on location.

I have travelled through approximately 67 countries, and driven vehicles through 28 of those countries. Although I have partaken in expeditions all over the world, mainly botanical expeditions, I was based in Taiwan for 10 years and most of my work has been throughout Southeast Asia – China, Taiwan, Tibet, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Pakistan etc.. I also lived in Australia for 2 years, and travelled extensively there and New Zealand. Over the last few years, due to my knowledge of the countries and my language skills, I have assisted, and led many academics into Asian destinations for them to study their specific subject in the field.

Lastly, I have been fortunate over the years to have seen, in the wild, many of the world’s rarest and most fascinating animals, birds, and plants. But you can also see these if you want to.

Now about you
Contact me using the secure link provided. The information you submit will not be published in any way, neither will the information be transmitted to other interested parties without your express permission. I will post your basic destination idea on this page to see if there is public interest.

Start by suggesting a destination, and what it is (if any) that you would like to see or study while you are there. It may be that you don’t mind where you go and are happy to join the party wherever we go.

Provide a little background about yourself, and include information about your fitness. Don’t worry if you have a disability or think you’re not fit enough, contact me anyway and we’ll discuss it. Your fitness will improve tremendously both during preparation and during the expedition. But do remember that you could put other expedition members at risk if you don’t disclose a serious medical problem beforehand.

If you have specialist knowledge about the country, environment, species, language, whatever, Let me know. Likewise, if you have the most experience travelling in the country you will be the expedition leader (help provided). Otherwise, I will assume expedition leadership.

If motor vehicles are to be needed, then I will take on that responsibility, but quite often more than one driver is needed. So if you feel you have the ability to drive and or maintain a vehicle then you should also advise me so.

Even if you can’t do this trip this year, but would like to do it before you die, contact me right now regardless, we can discuss it by email or phone, and it might be more feasible than you originally thought. Please don’t be put off suggesting a destination because it has no palm trees and you think I won’t want to go there, I’m interested to go to any destination regardless of whether I’ve been there before or not.

Contact link, opens a contact form in a new window. Or leave a reply at the bottom of the page.

One last thing. I want to make this ‘Not for profit’. I have to travel all the time anyway, I see this as a means to reduce my costs, and meet interesting people and learn from them. I may have to charge some sort of administration fee if its taking a lot of my time and resources, but the over-all objective here is to reduce the expedition costs for all participants.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Speak to you soon,

Phil Markey


Two weeks travelling down the eastern side of Taiwan, and a trip over to Lanyu island in the summer 2013.
This is a suggestion from myself. Fairly simple in the planning – travelling in a minibus and staying in hotels every other day or so. Other nights spent outdoors in hammocks, to save hotel costs, and to get into the wilderness. Wildlife includes butterflies, birds including eagles and the Lanyu Scops owl, snakes, and a lot of plants – ferns, bananas, and palms including 3 calamus (ratan) species, Arenga engleri, Pinanga tashiroi, Phoenix loureiroi, and Livistona chinensis var. subglobosa. I know the habitats like the back of my hand, and I speak Chinese.

An addition to this could be Two weeks in the Japanese Ryukyu islands to see: ferns, spectacular environments, Cycas revoluta, and palms including Arenga ryukyuensis, Satakentia liukiuensis, and the most northerly population of Nypa fruticans.
Contact me or leave a message if you’re interested.

Climate adaptedness in palms

Predicting Cold Hardiness in Palms

Climate adaptedness, I feel is a better term than Cold hardiness

The nature of one’s growing season has a profound effect on “cold hardiness”. Cold hardiness zone maps will provide indicators as to the minimum temperature a species may have been subjected to. However, that data is insufficient. Therefore, we must look at the physical map for that specie’s natural distribution range where this will indicate many other vital statistics; Latitude, Altitude, and environment type. The environment type indicates the amount of vegetative cover, topography, total sunshine in hours, total rainfall in mm, number of rainy days, etc..

Thermally, the summers of climates that have some cold weather limitations in winter fall into three groups:

Group 1: warm – daytime temperatures in summer are consistently warm and remain elevated during the night. Over 2500 GDD per annum* (semi-tropical and low desert climates).

Group 2: mixed – warm daytime temperatures in summer may be mixed with cooler days or cool mornings. There is a considerable drop in temperature during the night. 1000-2500 GDD per annum* (warm Mediterranean and semi-arid inland climates).

Group 3: cool – warm daytime temperatures are the exception rather than the rule. Nights are consistently cool. Fewer than 1000 GDD per annum* (mild maritime and subtropical montane climates).

We should then breakdown this still further, by including specific local environment conditions at that local; I.e., Latitude, Altitude, and environment type.

All of these group examples above are “Hardiness Zone 9b” climates, all very different. Whether or not any given palm will adapt to the given winters depends, in large part, on how thermophilic the palm is, not just on how well it tolerates occasional frost, which is how most people read hardiness zones to be. Rhopalostylis sapida, for example, is not thermophilic at all. It grows slowly in temperate conditions and giving it additional heat does not accelerate its growth. Butia capitata is moderately thermophilic. It grows slowly in temperate conditions but prefers subtropical conditions and giving it additional heat does accelerate its growth. One could classify “cold-hardy” palms as belonging to climate group 1, 2, or 3 depending on what kind of summers they prefer. The problem with the recognised list of “temperate palms” is that it mixes palms from all three groups with little regard for limitations imposed by the nature of the growing season, and environment type associated with the specific specie.

Another limiting factor is seasonal precipitation. In ideal conditions, most palms would prefer equi-distributional rainfall. With cold winters, however, dry winters are best and a strong rainfall peak in spring or summer produces the best growth. Having a marked rainfall peak in winter adds another limitation to what kind of palms will grow in a “temperate” climate.

*Growing Degree Days per year calculated on a base of 12°C. As the temperature most temperate palm species commence growth.

GDD are calculated by taking the average of the daily maximum and minimum temperatures compared to a base temperature, Tbase, (usually 10°C). As an equation:
GDD calculation
GDDs are measured from the winter low. Any temperature below Tbase is set to Tbase before calculating the average. Likewise, the maximum temperature is capped at 30°C because palms generally do not grow any faster above that temperature.
For example, a day with a high of 23°C and a low of 12°C would contribute 5.5 GDDs.
GDD example

Example climate models compared with Cornwall in the United Kingdom.

Here we examine examples of the climate models for species:

Climate at Trebrown Nurseries, Cornwall, UK. (12 Months. Hardiness zone zone 9b).
Sunshine (Hours) 2h 3h 4h 6h 7h 7h 6h 6h 5h 4h 2h 2h
Av. Night Temp. 4°C 4°C 5°C 6°C 8°C 11°C 13°C 13°C 12°C 9°C 7°C 5°C
Av. Day Temp. 8°C 8°C 10°C 13°C 15°C 18°C 19°C 19°C 18°C 15°C 12°C 9°C
Precipitation 99mm 74mm 69mm 53mm 63mm 53mm 70mm 77mm 78mm 91mm 113mm 110mm
Rainy Days 19 15 14 12 12 12 14 14 15 16 17 18
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -8°C. But this was a one-off. Otherwise -4°C. 887 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 1620, Total rain = 950mm. Total rainy days = 178.
So from this data we can see that despite the large amount of rain, the UK still gets a reasonable amount of seasonal sunshine. For those who don’t already know this, this makes the UK a great place for gardening. This amount of sunshine is attributed to the long summertime day length, a consequence of being so far north of the equator. The downside is the minimal sunshine during the winter months, combined with the fact that most of the rain falls in the winter. There is little summertime extreme heat, and little temperature swing between summer and winter. The winters are extremely mild. Finding palm species, that thrive in these conditions is challenging.

Chamaerops humilis. Climate in Madrid, Spain. (12 Months).
Example: Mediterranean
Sunshine (Hours) 5h 6h 6h 8h 9h 11h 12h 11h 9h 6h 5h 5h
Av. Night Temp. 2°C 2°C 5°C 7°C 10°C 15°C 17°C 17°C 14°C 10°C 5°C 2°C
Av. Day Temp. 9°C 11°C 10°C 18°C 21°C 27°C 31°C 30°C 25°C 19°C 13°C 9°C
Precipitation 39mm 34mm 43mm 48mm 48mm 27mm 11mm 15mm 32mm 53mm 47mm 48mm
Rainy Days 8 7 10 9 10 5 2 3 6 8 9 10
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -10°C. for this provenance. 1551.2 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 2790, Total rain = 445mm. Total rainy days = 87.

Madrid is better compared with London rather than Cornwall, because London shares the same average Min. Temp. (2°C), and the same record Min. Temp. (-10°C), both being a zone 9a. Here in Cornwall, we actually have a better hardiness zone than both those zone 9b. We all know that Spain is a better place to grow palm trees, so why is that? – 58% more sunshine than the UK, this almost entirely due to the 91 fewer rainy days. The consequence of this being far less available water, 505 mm less than the UK. Making this climate hot, dry, and arid.
Chamaerops humilis will grow almost anywhere in the British Isles, and we don’t ever get temperatures low enough to harm it. However, it grows very slowly here.

Butia capitata var. odorata. Climate in Uruguay. (12 Months).
Example: Campos (Grass-land).
Sunshine (Hours) 5h 6h 7h 8h 10h 10h 11h 10h 9h 8h 6h 5h
Av. Night Temp. 6°C 6°C 8°C 9°C 12°C 15°C 17°C 16°C 15°C 15°C 9°C 6°C
Av. Day Temp. 14°C 14°C 17°C 20°C 23°C 26°C 28°C 28°C 26°C 26°C 18°C 15°C
Precipitation 47mm 66mm 99mm 99mm 84mm 81mm 74mm 79mm 76mm 66mm 74mm 79mm
Rainy Days 6 7 6 6 6 7 6 5 5 5 5 5
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -4°C. for this provenance. 1961.8 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 2850, Total rain = 951mm. Total rainy days = 71.
So this is basically a Mediterranean climate, but with twice the rainfall over fewer rainy days. The rainy days are also spread quite evenly throughout the year, providing excellent growing conditions, with a long growing season. The exact same amount of rain as the UK, but fewer rainy days, which in turn produces more sunshine hours. It is clear why Butia capitata grows so well in the UK. With more sun it would be completely at home here.

Washingtonia filifera. Climate in Arizona, USA. (12 Months).
Example: Arid Desert.
Sunshine (Hours) 8h 10h 11h 12h 13h 14h 13h 12h 12h 10h 9h 9h
Av. Night Temp. 4°C 6°C 8°C 12°C 16°C 21°C 25°C 24°C 21°C 13°C 7°C 4°C
Av. Day Temp. 18°C 21°C 24°C 28°C 33°C 38°C 40°C 38°C 36°C 30°C 24°C 19°C
Precipitation 20mm 20mm 18mm 10mm 3mm 3mm 25mm 25mm 18mm 10mm 15mm 23mm
Rainy Days 4 4 4 2 1 1 6 6 3 2 3 4
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -13°C. for this provenance. 3315.4 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 3990, Total rain = 190mm. Total rainy days = 40.

At first glance at the record min. temp. -13°C., and climate zone 9a most people will assume that Washingtonia filifera will grow easily in the UK. This palm is adapted to a very harsh and arid environment. It likes a lot of sun, high temperatures, dry air, and any cold snaps to be very short. It does like its roots in plenty of water, but it totally dislikes freezing moist air, and for this reason this palm can be killed at a mere -4°C in the UK. It can be grown in the UK, but requires a little attention.

Parajubaea torallyi var. torallyi. Climate in Pasopaya, Bolivia. (12 Months).
Example: Tropical, High Mountain.
Sunshine (Hours) 9h 8h 7h 6h 6h 6h 6h 5h 5h 6h 8h 9h
Av. Night Temp. 1°C 2°C 3°C 4°C 6°C 6°C 6°C 6°C 6°C 4°C 3°C 3°C
Av. Day Temp. 17°C 17°C 18°C 19°C 19°C 18°C 17°C 17°C 18°C 18°C 18°C 18°C
Precipitation 10mm 13mm 28mm 41mm 48mm 94mm 114mm 107mm 66mm 33mm 13mm 8mm
Rainy Days 2 4 9 9 11 18 21 18 16 9 5 2
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -4°C. for this provenance. 1064.5 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 2430, Total rain = 575mm. Total rainy days = 124.

This is a climate comparable to the UK except for the fact that the temperature swings between Min., & Max. temperatures occurs between day and night within a single day, not summer and winter seasons, as in the UK. We can assume that Parajubaea torallyi dislikes seasons, or it would have migrated south down the Andes mountain range after the last Iceage. And we can assume that this palm dislikes high temperatures, or it wouldn’t be growing at such a high altitude in the tropics. Parajubaea torallyi grows at the highest altitude of any palm (3,400 m).
Parajubaea torallyi seems to tolerate the UK temperatures, because we have minimal temperature swing between summer and winter. However, it grows very slowly.

Rhopalostylis sapida. Climate in West, South Island, New Zealand. (12 Months).
Example: Wet Temperate.
Sunshine (Hours) 4h 5h 5h 5h 6h 7h 7h 6h 5h 5h 4h 4h
Av. Night Temp. 3°C 3°C 6°C 8°C 9°C 11°C 12°C 12°C 11°C 8°C 6°C 3°C
Av. Day Temp. 12°C 12°C 13°C 15°C 16°C 18°C 19°C 19°C 18°C 18°C 14°C 12°C
Precipitation (mm) 218 239 226 292 267 262 262 191 239 239 244 231
Rainy Days 16 16 17 19 18 16 14 12 14 14 15 15
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -5°C. for this provenance. 642.5 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 1890, Total rain = 2910mm. Total rainy days = 186.

Here we have a climate almost exactly the same as the UK, except for the massive 1960 mm of additional rain falling in almost the same umber of wet days as the UK. This is the southernmost range of Rhopalostylis sapida on mainland New Zealand, and is the ideal provenance to grow in the UK. This palm also grows in areas of New Zealand with much less rain than this. Nevertheless, we can assume that the rain in the UK would not deter this palm from thriving here. The palm seems to prefer higher temperatures if it can get them, and temperatures below -5°C. can easily kill it. Rhopalostylis sapida grows very slowly both in the British Isles and New Zealand.

Trachycarpus fortunei. Climate on Zhoushan Island, China. (12 Months).
Example: Temperate.
Sunshine (Hours) 4h 4h 4h 5h 5h 5h 7h 7h 5h 6h 5h 5h
Av. Night Temp. 1°C 1°C 4°C 10°C 15°C 19°C 23°C 23°C 19°C 14°C 7°C 2°C
Av. Day Temp. 8°C 8°C 13°C 19°C 25°C 28°C 32°C 32°C 28°C 23°C 17°C 12°C
Precipitation 48mm 58mm 84mm 94mm 94mm 180mm 147mm 142mm 130mm 71mm 51mm 36mm
Rainy Days 6 9 9 9 9 11 9 9 11 4 6 6
Winter Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Record min. temp. -12°C. for this provenance. 2113.9 GDD per annum

Total sunshine hours = 1860, Total rain = 1135mm. Total rainy days = 98.

Here we have the climate, which is the best match to the UK. This particular provenance of Chusan Island is wetter and sunnier than the UK, but if you compare the average climate over the whole, wide range of Trachycarpus fortunei in China then you will find that it matches the UK very well. Trachycarpus fortunei enjoys the longer day length in the UK summer, and it can be said that the palm actually grows better in the UK than it does in China.


Finding an exact match to the UK climate is impossible, due to the fact that the British Isles lies so far north of the equator, where both winter and winter nights are long. No other place on the planet, which shares similar winter temperatures is situated so far from the equator. Studying hardiness zones alone does not indicate species suitable for growing in the UK. All palms, which can be grown here would prefer more winter sunshine than they can find in the UK. On the plus side; the British Isles’ mild winters permits us to grow more species, albeit uncomfortably than any other place situated this far from the equator, 50°N – 60°N. Studying climate modelling statistics of palm’s provenance’s in this way has so far identified over 130 (and counting) species as likely candidates for trial in the British Isles. But only by actually trialing them in the ground here can we identify the specie’s tolerances.