Tobias Spanner became seriously interested in palm trees in 1987 and joined the International Palm Society soon after. In 2002, Toby was elected to the IPS’s board of directors and currently holds one of the two offices of Vice President. Toby has also been a member of the European Palm Society since its formation and served as editor of the EPS’s journal for several years.
Toby is the author of Das Palmen Kulturhandbuch (1992), a handbook for growing palms, and co-author of the 320 page Winterharte Palmen (2007), which focuses on his specialization, cold-hardy palms. Additionally, Toby has published numerous articles in “Principies” (now “Palms”), “The Palm Journal,” “Chamaerops” and in various German gardening magazines, and has been featured in multiple television and radio gardening programs and in over 30 magazines in Germany.
Toby made his first palm expedition, to China, in 1991, and has since traveled all over the world to destinations such as India, Burma, Pakistan, Mexico, Ecuador and Vietnam in search of rare and little-known palms. Although Toby says his foremost goal on these trips is to see as many palms in their natural habitats as he can, these expeditions also allow him to gather specimens for study as well as collect seeds for cultivation. His most important expedition, taken with Martin Gibbons to The Sudan in 1995, led to the rediscovery of Medemia argun—a palm that was believed to be extinct. The pair have also scientifically described four new species of Trachycarpus and rediscovered several others.
Toby is from Munich, Germany, where he lives with his wife, Dr. Lauri Coulombe, and runs a palm seed business, a mail-order plant nursery, and a small publishing company.