Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tree Thursday - Royal Palm

Cuban Royal Palm
Roystonia regia

The Royal palm is a plant that truly lives up to its common name.  The palms exude majesty and elegance.  Many South Florida Cities have boulevards lined with the palms.  In Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find them on Broward Boulevard, East Las Olas Boulevard and many of the Las Olas Isles streets.  Hollywood has old Royal Palms lining East Hollywood Boulevard.   Royal Palms are massive, reaching a typical height of about 80 feet.   The palms have smooth sculpted trunks that appear to be columns made from molds instead of being formed in nature.  The Cuban Royal Palm was imported in large numbers in the 1920s and 30s and are the most common Royal that you will see in landscapes. There is a Florida Royal Palm (Roystonia elata), but for the most part, you have to travel to the Everglades to see it.  The two types of Royal Palms are very similar except that the Cuban’s trunk casts a much more curvaceous figure.  It constricts about halfway up and then bulges again just below the crownshaft creating a dramatic profile.

While having many positive attributes, there are some problems with Royal Palms.  First the massive size makes them impractical and out of scale for most single family homes.  Also, Royal Palms naturally grow in swamps and are water loving.  Royal Palms are self-pruning which is not always a good thing.  Royal Palm fronds are large and heavy.  They can do a lot of damage if they hit something when they fall.  I’ve seen wall lights busted and cars damaged by the fronds. 

Growth Rate:                     Medium
Drought Tolerance:         High
Salt Tolerance:                  Medium