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.