Campus Palm Guide P alms are icons of the Tropics, but their range and impact extend far beyond the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. In nature, palm fruits are important food resources for many species of wild animals. Wherever they occur, palms are used by local people for construction materials, thatch, fiber, food, oils, wax, sugar and alcohol. A few palms have become agronomic crops and enter into world commerce: palm oil and palm kernel oil (from the fruits and seeds, respectively, of the African Oil Palm, Elaeis guineensis), coconut and coconut oil (from Cocos nucifera), dates (Phoenix dactylifera), rattans (various species) and carnauba wax (Copernicia prunifera). A Brazilian palm fruit known as açaí has recently gone international. Here in South Florida, palms are important ornamental landscape plants. They enhance the lush look of South Florida. Because palms are so important, both ecologically and culturally, this guide was prepared to interpret the palms growing around the pond, east of Viertes Haus (VH), south of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and west of Owa Ehan (OE). These same palm species, along with several others, are found throughout the campus, but this guide is limited to the palms in this area. The Campus Palm Guide was made possible by grant from the South Florida Palm Society. www.southfloridapalmsociety.org. Acoelorrhaphe wrightii – The Everglades or Paurotis Palm is native to the Everglades, as well as wetlands in the Bahamas, western Cuba, the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. The palm forms large clusters of stems. The black fruits are consumed by birds, which disperse the seeds. Adonidia merrillii – The Christmas Palm gets its common name from the clusters of bright red fruits that are abundant in December. This palm is native to limestone islands the Philippines but is cultivated throughout the world. Attalea crassispatha – One of the most endangered palms in the world, the Carossier is native to a small area in Haiti, where its habitat is being destroyed by human activities and livestock grazing. Bismarckia nobilis – The Bismarck Palm is native to western Madagascar. It looks similar to the Blue Lontar Palm (Latania loddigesii), to which it is closely related. With practice, one can easily tell the difference between the two species. The Bismarck Palm is more cold-hardy, taller and has threadlike filaments between the leaflets. This species is a popular landscape plant because of its sivery blue leaves. Carpentaria acuminata – The Carpentaria Palm was introduced to Florida from its native Australia in the 1970s. It is fast-growing, with a graceful crown, and produces beautiful clusters of small, red fruits. Caryota mitis – The Fishtail Palm of Southeast Asia is remarkable for its flowering habit: clusters of flowers emerge from the stem from the top down. After the lowermost flowers produce fruits, the stem will die, but the palm produces other stems. It gets its common name from the shape of the leaflets. The juice of the fruit can irritate skin. Coccothrinax argentea – The Guano of Hispaniola is a tall, solitary palm with palmate leaves. The leaves are commonly used to manufacture brooms. Coccothrinax crinita – Commonly called the Old Man Palm, this species occurs only in Pinar del Río, Cuba, where it is critically endangered. Only 61 adult palms are known to survive in the wild. The long, shaggy fibers that clothe the trunk are distinctive for this species. Cocos nucifera – The Coconut is one of the most useful palms in the world. The trunk is used for construction, the leaves for thatch, fibers, brooms and mats, and of course, the seeds are edible and a source of oil commonly used in soaps and cosmetics. It is cultivated worldwide but thought to have originated in the islands of the western Pacific. Dictyosperma album – The Princess Palm is native to the Mascarene Islands of the Indian Ocean. Their graceful, pinnate leaves and ease of culture make this palm a popular choice for landscape designers. Dypsis decaryi – The Triangle Palm gets its common name from its three-sided crown of leaves. Its native habitat is a narrow transition zone between rainforest and spiny desert in southern Madagascar. Dypsis lutescens – the Areca Palm is native to Madagascar, where it is endangered in the wild. It is, however, one of the most widely cultivated ornamental palms in the world. The specific epithet means “yellowish” and refers to the yellowish cast to the leaves and stems of this palm. Hyophorbe lagenicaulis – The Bottle Palm is native to the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, where it is critically endangered. It is an easy-to-grow palm with a striking, bottle-shaped trunk topped with a few pinnate leaves. Hyophorbe verschaffeltii – The Spindle Palm, like its close relative the Bottle Palm, is native to Mauritius, where it is endangered. It is grows easily and produces a thickened, spindle-shaped trunk. This species is more cold-tolerant than the related Bottle Palm. Latania loddigesii – The Blue Latan Palm is native to the islands of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants, and both are necessary in order to produce fruits. Leucothrinax morrisii – Until recently, the unique identity of the Brittle Thatch Palm or Keys Thatch Palm was hiding in plain sight! Long known as Thrinax morrisii, this species was placed in a new genus in 2008, after botanists found that its DNA sequences differed from those of true Thrinax species. The Brittle Thatch Palm occurs in the Lower Keys, as well as the Bahamas, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Licuala spinosa – Known in the nursery trade as the Spiny Licuala. Both the common and scientific names refer to this palm’s leafstalks, which are heavily armed with stout teeth. It forms clusters of stems. In its native Southeast Asia, it occurs in swamps. Livistona chinensis – Native to southern China, Taiwan and Japan, the Chinese Fan Palm is widely cultivated around the world. Its blue-green fruits are highly ornamental and borne in great abundance. They are not edible. Livistona decora – The Ribbon Palm gets its common name from the narrow, drooping segments of the leaves. It is native to Queensland, Australia, but is cultivated around the world. It is a fast-growing palm, popular with palm enthusiasts. This species was formerly known as Livistona decipiens. Livistona saribus – Native to Southeast Asia, where it occurs in swamps and wet forest, sometimes in large colonies, the Serdang or Taraw Palm is a large palm with vicious teeth along its leafstalk. Phoenix canariensis – The Canary Island Date Palm has been in cultivation in Florida since the 1880s. It is found in the wild only in the Canary Islands, where the sap it tapped from living palms to make a syrup. The fruits are edible but a poor substitute for the true Date (Phoenix dactylifera). Phoenix dactylifera – The Date Palm is one of mankind’s oldest cultivated crops. The Date Palm is a cultigen, a crop species that does not exist in the wild form. These palms are purely ornamental, as the fruit quality is poor in Florida’s wet climate. Phoenix reclinata – The Senegal Date Palm is native to a wide area of tropical East Africa. This palm produces large clusters of stems. As in all species of Phoenix, the fruits are edible, but they are not as large as those of the true date palm (see above). Phoenix roebelenii – From the Mekong River of Southeast Asia comes the Pygmy Date Palm, a small palm that can have either a solitary trunk or multiple trunks. Beware of the long spines at the base each leaf; they inflict wounds that are prone to infection. The trunk has knobby projections that are distinctive to this species. Phoenix rupicola – The Cliff Date Palm is native to India and Bhutan. The trunk is always solitary, and the flattened fronds twist so that the leaflets are held perpendicular to the sky. Ptychosperma elegans – The Solitaire Palm is native to Queensland, Australia, but widely cultivated in South Florida. The red fruits are consumed by birds. The trunk is solitary, but growers often plant two or three palms together in a group, as are the examples planted here. Ptychosperma macarthurii – The Macarthur Palm is a clustering palm, forming large, narrow clumps of slender stems. It is native to New Guinea and adjacent northern Australia. This palm was popular in Florida in the mid-20th Century, but it has since fallen out of fashion. The small, red fruits are decorative. Ravenea rivularis – The Majesty Palm is from Madagascar, where it grows in swamps. Fortunately, this palm will also grow on dry land. It was introduced to cultivation in Florida in the 1990s and is now popular around the world. Roystonea regia – The national tree of Cuba, the Royal Palm also grows naturally in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Yucatan Peninsula. It is fast-growing and stately, and its fruits are enjoyed by birds and bats. It is cultivated around the world. Sabal causiarum – The Puerto Rican Hat Palm, so named because its leaves were once used for weaving hats, is native to Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. It is a large palm with a massive trunk, much larger than the related Sabal palmetto. Its flowers and fruits attract and sustain wildlife. Sabal palmetto – The state tree of both Florida and South Carolina, the Cabbage Palm has many uses by Florida’s indigenous people. Seminoles call it Taal Choobe and use the leaves for thatch. It is also an important wildlife resource. Its flowers attract scores of insects, and birds feast upon the fruits. Syagrus romanzoffiana – The Queen Palm is cultivated throughout Florida and southern California because it is cold-hardy and easy to grow. It is native to southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and northeastern Argentina. The Queen Palm is a relative of the coconut and, like the coconut, has oily seeds. Thrinax radiata – Our native Thatch Palm can be found in the Upper Keys, but it also occurs naturally in Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica and coastal Yucatan Peninsula. The white fruits are consumed by birds. Veitchia arecina – A tall, slender palm with red fruits, the Montgomery Palm is widely used in Florida landscapes. It is native to the Vanuatu Islands in the western Pacific. Washintonia robusta – The Mexican Fan Palm is native to northwestern Mexico. It is a fast-growing species that can grow very tall. The genus name was given to these palms to honor George Washington, one of only three US presidents for whom plants have been named. Wodyetia bifurcata – The Fox-Tail Palm gets its name from the shape of its leaf, in which the spreading leaflets give it a bushy, fox-tail appearance. Surprisingly, this species was discovered in 1983 in Queensland, Australia, at a time when most botanist believed the palms of Australia were well known. Zombia antillarum – The trunks of this clustering palm from Hispaniola are clothed in spiny leaf sheathes that are decorative but dangerous. The Zombie Palm occurs in seasonally dry habitats, often on soils rich in nickel and other heavy metals. Text & photos: © Scott Zona, Ph.D., Dept. of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199 USA.