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Palm Reading? Or Too Many Palms...

Series: Green Spaces | Story 22

Last week I briefly mentioned there being so many varieties of palm trees at the Sunken Gardens. There were palm trees scattered throughout the gardens, a well as a palm grove. Many of them I'd never heard of. I thought I'd write about those this week, to keep us envisioning tropical climes and ignoring the cold and snow enveloping our corner of Montana.

I'd thought I'd be able to do a quick online search for palms of Florida, but no, there are way too many types to cover. I'd said I was amazed at how many were in the Sunken Gardens, but I had no idea there are so many in the world. And most of them adapt quickly to Florida.

Florida covers Zones 8 through 11. We're in about 2.5 and 3 up here in the bleak North of the Middle of Nowhere. Glasgow is mostly zone 3, with pockets where some zone 4 plants, with coddling, will survive. So, while there are over 2,500 species of palms that can be grown in Florida, there are about 12 that are native Floridian palms.

Online sources give a wide range of the number of native palms there, so I chose to stick with the source that claimed 12. And even at that, I'm only going to share my palm readings on eight. You're welcome. If you want more information on them, you can do your own research. I had to take a short nap between my reading and actually writing this column.

In no particular order, the eight I chose from that dirty dozen are:

1. The state tree, the Cabbage Palm (sabal palmetto) grows to 40-65' tall. It has a large, rounded crown of fan-shaped fronds. It's commonly seen alongside roadways and in parks. It produces creamy-white flower clusters, and then black fruits. Other names are Blue Palmetto, Cabbage Tree, and Palmetto Palm.

2. Needle Palms (rhapsophyllum hystrux) features large lustrous dark green leaves. It's shrub-like, with a thick trunk. It's strap-like pointed leaflets are 3' long. After flowering, it produces poisonous red/brown fruits. Dennis can be glad I can't grow them here.

3. The Royal Palm, or Roystonea Regis, has 13' long leaves. It's impressive height goes from 65-100'. The trunks are a smooth grey with feathery fronds. The crown is bright green, and the flowers are white with pink anthers.

4. Saw Palmetto has blue-green fan-shaped fronds. Those fronds feature round leaves with 20 sharply pointed leaflets with teeth, hence the name. It flowers in the spring with 3' long yellow-white blossoms. Those "saws" are 3-6.5' long. Saw palmettos are shrub-like, only reaching 5-10' tall, and are often used as security borders in place of fencing.

5. Scrub Palmetto (sabal etonia) is also shrub-like, with leaf petioles springing up right out of the ground. They'll grow 3' wide and 4' tall. They like sun or shade, but are less tolerant of salt-air, so are used farther from the ocean that other palms.

6. The Florida Silver Palm (coccothrinax argentata) is tall and slender growing from 5-20' tall. This one has deeply divided blue-green leaves that are 2' long. It's slow-growing, and can get 5' wide. The Silver Palm gets clusters of creamy-white flowers and small black fruits.

7. Everglades Palms (acoelorrhaphe wrightii) are multi-stemmed, with large fan-shaped leaves on long, arching, spiny petioles. They have shaggy trunks, reaching heights of 20-30', and up to 25' wide. The flower clusters are large, up to 3' long.

8. The Buccaneer Palm (psuedophoenix sargentii) is also called The Sergeant. It's mid-sized (26' tall) and also features large arching feather-like fronds. Those fronds are 10' long. It's flower clusters are yellow, and the berries are red. The trunks are grey with rings circling them.

The Sunken Gardens has all of these palms, as well as many that were imported. The bottle Palm I so admired comes from Mauritius. That bulbous base is not used for water storage as I'd thought. It requires regular watering. It will get 10' tall, and it usually planted in groups of three to five.

Our daughter has a Pygmy Palm, native to southeastern Asia, in her front yard. She'd been told it would stay relatively small (6-8'), which it would if it were in a container. But they can get 12' tall. She hopes her 10 footer quits growing now.


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