December 4, 2011

Planting (Cuban) Palms with Personality

Sara Edelman, Palm and Cycad Manager

As published in the Miami Herald

Are you looking to add a palm tree to your backyard plant collection? Instead of opting for the same common palm trees spotted regularly in South Florida landscapes, such as the ubiquitous sabal palm, pick a palm that truly stands out. 

These three palms are endemic to Cuba and have the spunk and personality that will set your backyard apart. The similar climates of South Florida and the island of Cuba make Cuban palms especially easy to grow locally. These Cuban palms will definitely enhance your backyard. 

Cocothrinax crinita, old man palm, is names for thick fiber that resembles an old man's beard.

•  Coccothrinax crinita is also called the old man palm. It is easily identified by a thick, wool-like fiber on its trunk. To some, the old man palm looks like an old man’s beard or like a bearded soldier. 

Coccothrinax crinita requires full sun and well-drained soil for optimum growth. The old man palm is slow growing and will be a palm that future generations will enjoy as well. 

the petticoat palm, Copernicia macroglossa, does not shed old leaves and forms a petticoat around its trunk.

•  Copernicia macroglossa, the petticoat palm, earns its name from the petticoat of old leaves around its trunk. The leaves of Copernicia macroglossa are not shed like most other palms but remain on the palm. Unlike most palm trees, male and female flowers are found on separate individuals. 

Although the petticoat palm is slow growing, it can eventually reach heights of over 30 feet, with a canopy of 10 feet. This palm prefers full sun and well-drained soil. 

Gastrococcos crispa have shapely trunks that are deserving of its common name, Cuban belly palm.

•  Gastrococcos crispa, the Cuban belly palm, grows a belly in the middle of its trunk as it ages, giving this palm its common name. When it’s young, this palm is covered in spines on its leaves and trunk. As it matures, water is stored in its trunk, forming a belly. Its natural habitat is open forest on a limestone bed, so this palm is very happy in South Florida’s limestone soils. 

Cuban palms are a great way to add spice your landscape. All the palms listed above are easy to grow and relatively easy to find in a nursery in South Florida. Next time you are looking to add something new to your backyard, choose a palm with personality