The Palms

Palm trees have long been associated with Florida's balmy, tropical weather. Vacationers new to the state often arrive with mental images of wide sandy beaches bordered on their landward edges by picturesque lines of curving trunks and gently swaying fronds. Whether or not these romantic \ isions are founded in truth, the fact remains that the palm tree is one of the Sunshine State's most common and persistent symbols.

Florida's format relationship with the palm dates to 1953, the year the legislature voted to designate the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) as Florida's official state tree. The 1949 House of Representatives had initially selected the royal palm (Roystonea elata) for this distinction, presumably for its huge stature and regal appearance, but the Senate rejected the idea in favor of several other species* Four years later, however, at the encouragement of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, the Sabal palmetto edged out the competition to be named the state's most representative tree species,

Worldwide, the family Palmac (also sometimes called the Arecaceae or, erroneously, Palmaceae) is composed of over 230 genera and perhaps as many as 3,000 species. Only a few of these are indigenous to the continental United States, and most are restricted to the w armer regions of southern Florida and southern California. However, a large number of exotic species have been imported for ornamental purposes, and at least a few of these have become widely naturalized.

Eight tree-sized palms in seven genera are native to Florida. All are of tropical origins and, with only two Exceptions, are found mostly in the state*s southern counties where they are better protected from the killing effects of north Florida's occasionally freezing temperatures. In addition, three other species have found wide popularity as ornamental plants in the slate and have now become established components of our naturalized flora, AiM I of these trees are described and differentiated in Fan lilt should be emphasized that these 11 species are not the only palms to be found in the state, A large number of nonnative species are available from commercial nurs cries and are regularly cultivated for resale. One common handbook lists more than 25 species of introduced palms in Florida, all of which are recommended for use as ornamental landscape plants. At least a few of these are similar to some of our native species, which sometimes makes identification of these latter plants difficult.

The palms are distinguished as Florida s only monocotyledonous irees. As such, they differ from all of the other trees treated in this book. They arc phylogenetically more advanced than the gymnosperms presented in Chapters 1 and 2t but exhibit a very different appearance than the numerous dicotyledonous species treated in the chapters that follow.

Monocotyledons and dicotyledons take their names from the number of seed leaves,

or cotyledons, contained in their embryos; monocots have one, dicots two. For practical purposes, whether an individual plant is a monocot or dicot can be most easily determined by the number of its flower parts. Monocols typically (though not always) have flower parts in threes or multiples of three, whereas the flower parts of the dicots are usually (but* again, not always) in fours or fives. More important for identification purposes, raonocots usually have parallel rather than netted leaf venation, a characteristic that can easily be seen in most palm leaves.

As a result of their monocotyledonous heritage, palm trees are quite different from other tree species in a number of important ways. Unlike dicotyledonous trees, for example, the trunks of palm trees are not divided into bark and wood, instead, there is only an outer shell and inner cylinder, both of which are composed of living tissue. Palms are also typically unbranched and their primary growth is upward from a single terminal bud. Although they grow in girth, they do so only through enlargement of the hung tissue held in the center of the trunk. Hence, they never shed or replace their outer layer, as do most other trees.

The pafm trees also have the distinction of being one of the few collections of Florida trees that can be easily recognized by their overall shape in the landscape. Whereas the accurate identification of many tree species requires closeup inspection of an individual specimen's leaves or flowers, the palms are more forgiving to the casual observer. Even al a distance, many of our palms are relative!) easy trees to identify.

For identification purposes, the palm trees can be divided into two major groupings: those thai have palmate, or fan-shaped, leaves; and those that have pinnate, or feather-shaped, leaves. The pal mate-leaved species are characterized by a leaf structure in which all leaf segments arise from a single point, similar to the structure of the human band. Pinnate leaves, on the other hand, are characterized by leaves with rows of leaflets along each side of a central axis, similar in design to that of a feather,

Florida's pal mate-leaved palms include the paurotis palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii), silver palm {Coccothrinax argentata), sabal palm (Saba I palmetto), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)^ Key thatch palm (Thrinax marrisii), Florida thatch palm (Thrinax raJiata), and Washington palm (Washingtonia rohttsta), With the exception of the Washington palm, which has escaped from cultivation, all of these are native to ihc state.

The sabal palm and saw palmetto are the most widely distributed members of the palm family and are found in a variety of habitats throughout the state. The others are restricted primarily to the southern counties. The saba! palm and saw palmetto are interesting and important Florida trees. The fruits of the sabat palm, in particular, were once eaten by Florida's Indians, and it is well known today that the tree provides homes to a number of cavity-nesting birds and tood for a variety of wildlife.

The silver palm and both thatch palms are commercially exploited species and are included on the state's list of protected flora. They are most common in Dade County and the Keys. A trail named for the silver palm has been established at Bahia Honda State Recreation Area and offers an outstanding opportunity for close observation of this diminutive and attractive species.

The nature trail at Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place 10 study the differences between the silver and Key thatch palms. There is a marked specimen of each along the path. However, it should be noted that the sign marking the thatch palm is actually located directly in front of a silver palm that obstructs the view of the thatch palm; the latter is the second tree from the sign.

Only tour species of Florida1 s native or naturalized palms have pinnate leaves. Of these, the royal palm is by far the most majestic and easily identified. It is a tall, stately tree that is characterized by a smooth, bright green shaft separating the top of its light gray trunk from the bottom of the spreading leaf crown, This shaft completely encircles the trunk and is actually the single sheath of the oldest leaf in (he crown. It often extends down the trunk for more than 1 m and is a distinctive and easiij recognizable field mark.

The other three species with pinnate leaves include the coconut palm (Cocos nuci fera), the date pat m {Phoenix dactyl if era and the Sargent's cherry or buccaneer palm (Pseudopht*enix sargentii).

Sargent's cherry palm is native to the state and is an often-used ornamental. However, it is very rare in the wild and is known in quantity only from Elliott Key in Bis-cayne National Park, In appearance it has several characters of the royal palm, hut is generally smaller in stature, Joseph and Marcel la Nemec. who thoroughly surveyed the Elliott Key population for the National Park Service, found 39 specimens that survived the winds and waves of Hurricane Andrew. Twelve of these were naturally occurring mature trees, 14 were seedlings, and 13 were from a recent réintroduction effort. Prior to the storm there were 32 mature trees and 15 seedlings.

J. K, Small, one of the southeastern United State's most celebrated botanists, reported the cherry palm from both Elliott and Long Keys in the 1913 edition of his Flora of the Southeastern United States and in 1922 discovered at least one plant on Sands Key. According to Charles S. Sargent, the Harvard botanist for whom the tree is named, the Long Key population included about 200 trees in the late IXiHK. However, a variety of observers reported a steadily decreasing number throughout the early 1900s, and by the mid-1960s the naturally occurring population on Long Key had completely disappeared due primarily to the large-scale transplantation of w ild specimens for ornamental use.

In 1991 several specimens were planted on Long Key in an attempt to reestablish the population. In addition, 16 were also planted on FJIiott Key and three on adjacent Sands Key. Of these 19 specimens, 13 have survived. Fairchild Tropical Garden, together with the National Park Service and the Florida Department of Natural Resources, plans to continue to pursue these re introduction efforts,

The coconut and date palms are both introduced species that are best known for, and most easily recognized by, their fruits. The former species produces conspicuous clusters of its large, three-sided fruit, making it an easy palm to identify. It is also w idely used along streets and roadways throughout southern Florida and the Keys and is one of the easiest of the palms to find. The coconut palm has been said to rank among the 10 most useful trees in the world. The fruits arc eaten raw or fashioned into candies.

and their inner liquid makes a cool, refreshing drink. The dried, whitish, oily parts of ihc fruit are also sold in targe quantities for the manufacture of soaps and coconut oil. The leaves serve as thatch for roofs of tropical dwellings and the minks are used for posts. Coconut shells have been used as howls and cups and the tree's fibers have been fashioned into ropes, mats, and brushes. In addition, the tree is often planted for its beauty and grace throughout southern Florida and the West Indies and, in many ways, has come to serve as a symbol of the tropics.

The date palm is one of two species that comprise the source of commercially pro duced dates. It is a handsome tree that is sometimes grown as tar north as the Tampa area. U resembles the royal palm in general shape but Jacks the lattershiny green crown-shaft. The dale palm is easy to cultivate but requires warmth and humidity at the roots as well as high temperatures and full sun. It is very similar in appearance to the Canary bland date palm {P. canariensis); the two plants are sometimes difficult to distinguish.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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    Is palm tree a medicinal plant?
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