Palms for Autumn Planting, Part IV

The survey of palm species available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers continues this week:

Sabal mauritiiformis is probably the fastest-growing of the 20 or so species of Sabal. Native from northern South America to southern Mexico, this palm produces fairly large, deeply-split circular leaves — reminiscent of those of Licuala — even before the trunk develops. And the undersides of the leaves are mildly silvery. Eventually this palm will reach 30-60 ft. tall, with a trunk about a foot in diameter.

Satakentia liukiuensis is a palm endemic to the rainy southern Ryukyu Islands of Japan. A self-cleaning species, it possesses a beautiful maroon-brown crownshaft. It has a slow to moderate growth rate, maturing to about 30 ft. in our region, and is amenable to both limestone and sandy soils. S. liukiuensis holds up well to tropical storm conditions and can tolerate at least light frost. To see a nice stand of this striking palm, drive by the Lennar Foundation Medical Center on the eastern border of the University of Miami.

Serenoa repens is the Saw Palmetto, whose seeds are the source of an extract recommended in alternative medicine circles as beneficial to prostate health. A Florida native, it is a small, slow-growing species whose mildly fragrant flowers are a rarity in the palm world. Stems of this clustering species commonly ‘crawl’ along the ground and, over time, can extend several feet from the center of the plant.

Syagrus cearensis is a midsize, clumping species bearing slightly plumose leaflets unevenly distributed along the petiole. It almost always produces two stems, but occasionally sends up more. It was not described botanically until 2004. It is endemic to the northeast Brazilian states of Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, and Ceará, the last of which is the source of its species name. S. cearensis prefers a sunny position with good drainage.

Syagrus kellyana, endemic to Minas Gerais state in Brazil, is relatively new to Florida. It grows at a deliberate rate, reaching 6-16 ft. at maturity. S. kellyana bears a crown of dark green, gracefully-recurving leaves, and produces fairly large fruits. It appears to be rather cold-hardy. Native to granitic outcroppings or areas of thin soil, this species does not appear to mind the poor soils of southern Florida. For best results, plant S.kellyana in full sun on a site with good drainage.

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