Davidia involucrata with fruit in fall
Almost every front yard in Valencia Reserve is decorated with clumps of two to three Phoenix roebelenii. Phoenix is the Greek name for the date palm. Roebelenii honors Carl Roebelen (1855-1927), a German who hunted orchids in southeast Asia where Phoenix roebelenii is native. You will often hear this palm called by one of its common names: Pygmy Date Palm or Robellini. The small stature of this palm species makes it highly valuable for home landscaping.
The feathery leaves are lovely but, as most of us gardeners can attest, the lower leaflets of the leaves have evolved into long sharp spines, to prevent mammals from eating the foliage. Some landscapers trim many of the lower leaves, leaving the palm with a “feather-duster” appearance and exposing the gorgeous dark brown trunk. The University of Florida IFAS Extension frowns on the feather–duster look because palms do rely on their leaves for minerals and to photosynthesize the sugars they need to grow.
Phoenix roebellinii (Pygmy Date Palm) is a close relative of Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm), as you can tell by noticing that they are both in the genus Phoenix. Unfortunately, the fruits of the Pygmy, while technically edible, are quite small and dry compared to the luscious fruits of a Date Palm, which yields grocery store quality dates. Phoenix plants are either male or female and only the females will bear the dates. This was a costly problem on date plantations because half of the plants (the males) did not yield dates, although they still required water and maintenance! Modern agriculture techniques have circumvented this issue by identifying the genetic sex of seedling date palms, so that one male can be planted to pollinate every 40-50 females. We have thousands of roebellenis in VR, so there is no lack of both sexes for pollination to occur via the wind.
A Phoenix roebelenii trunk is a useful place to mount an orchid, a fern, or a bromeliad because the trunk has protruding old leaf stem bases covered with fibers where these plants can happily sit and receive water and sun and shade. On your next walk around the neighborhood, check out all the beautiful plants hanging on Phoenix roebelenii trunks!
Click on the word "Slideshow" in the upper right hand corner of this blog to see many South Florida palms
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I am a member of Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. One day while visiting I noticed this great succulent arrangement (see below) for sale at the gift shop for a very reasonable price, so I bought it and put it on my patio table where it is thriving. ( It was not blooming when I bought it).
So I decided to go to Mounts Nursery, where I was told this originated. Mounts Botanical Garden (MBG) is open 7 days a week from 10-4, but the Nursery (behind the garden and accessed via a second driveway) is only open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10-3:30.
I was delighted when I finally checked it out today: a lovely selection of plants mainly grown by volunteers from cuttings/seeds obtained at MBG and sold at VERY reasonable prices. The plants were divided on tables into herbs, natives, butterfly plants, etc. Here are just a few of my favs:
Some succulent arrangements for you to buy!
CHOCOLATE MINT! Leaves smelled just like chocolate mint😀
PORTULACA: a particularly pretty color and form
CUPHEA: nectar-rich flowers for butterflies
BLUE PORTERWEED: another nectar source for butterflies
CALENDULA: a flower that has been popular in England since Shakespeare's time
NASTURTIUM: from the Latin "nasal tortus", a twisted nose, due to the plant's pungent taste
Maybe most exciting of all is the Henna shrub. This plant is grown in the secton of Mounts Botanical garden called the Garden of Well-Being . Henna leaves are the source of hair, nail, and skin dye.
Tabebuia aurea ( Silver Trumpet Tree) showing off its annual spring bloom in Boynton Beach, FL on 3/18/19.
Fun and easy to read, I am recommending this book for anyone interested in the history of orchid collection , especially in England and Florida. The book was the basis for a movie called Adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage; however, the movie is in no way a substitute for the book as the book is non-fiction by journalist Susan Orlean and the movie is fiction with added romance, drug use, and violence.
I've taken this class in the past; it is very practical and worthwhile with expert advice about taking care of your orchids. Do sign up if you are interested because the classes become filled!
Image courtesy of Morris Arboretum.
The Royal Palm was a contender for the state tree of Florida; however, it only grows in Southern Florida, so it lost to the Sabal Palm, which grows throughout the state. Two pine tree species were also in contention. Imagine if our state tree were a pine. Surely that image would change the vibe of a postcard from sunny Florida!
The scientific name of the Royal Palm is Roystonea regia. The genus is named for Roy Stone, a soldier in the Union Army who was subsequently sent to Puerto Rico to engineer roads. Regiameans regal. This palm is native to Puerto Ricoand other Caribbean Islands, Florida, Mexico and parts of Central America.
Royal Palms can be identified by their impressive features: enormous feathery leaves, huge flower clusters, and great height. Another identification feature is a trunk with the smooth gray appearance of a cement column (see photo). Structurally, all palms are designed like reinforced concrete. Since palms are not trees,and therefore do not have sturdy rings of wood in the trunk, they get their strength by forming vertical vascular columns that act like steel rods and then surrounding these vascular columns with connective tissue that acts like cement.
Royal Palms have no edible parts, but they are grown commercially for landscaping. Although they are easy to grow, they do come with three caveats: 1) Their heavy fronds can pose a danger as they fall from their 50-75 foot heights. 2) Their extensive root systems can be destructive 3) Their smooth pseudobark can serve as a growing place for lichens and black sooty mold, which some people find unattractive.
Please click on "slideshows" in the upper right hand corner for named photos of many common Valencia Reserve/ South Florida landscape palms.
Katherine Wagner-Reiss has her botany Certificate from the New York Botanical Garden, where she is a volunteer tour guide.