In the ‘palm’ of his hands

December 05, 2017

Michael Graham gives a summer trim to a palm tree in the Larson residence hall.

For 50 years, the palm trees in Larson, Perlroth and Troup halls have been one of Quinnipiac’s most curious and exotic botanical treasures.

To the uninitiated, they are silent sentries growing in residence halls modeled after a Florida shopping mall. Think green-houses meet residential life, circa 1967.

To groundskeeper Michael Graham, who has spent the last 22 years watering and sustaining these seemingly out-of-place trees, they are Phoenix roebelenii, better known as pygmy date palms.

“I pop in sometimes and I say, ‘Oh look, they need some love,’” he said.
We all take care of them, not just me,” Graham said. “I try to feed them monthly during the growing months when the students aren’t here.”

A few years ago, Graham searched through dozens of palm tree photos to see which variety had “nasty spikes” near the top. “When I figured out they were pygmy dates, I was excited. I learned how to take care of them better,” Graham said.

“We have a little tow-around water wagon that we use. We mix in Miracle-Gro, just like you would at home.”

Graham’s green thumb has extended to plantings across the university. He has enhanced the stock flowers with a kalei-doscope of tropical color. “Mike really enjoys his work,” said John Copela, senior superintendent of grounds. “It’s not just the palms — it’s everything he does.”

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