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15 February 2007

Gotta be tough to live in the Florida scrub

Palmettos might just be my favourite palms. I've always loved and been fascinated by them. And they have contributed to some of my best childhood memories. We'd cut a frond, chop off the leaves and whittle the end of the stem to a nice sharp point. Then we stuck a hot dog or marshmallow on the end and held it over a nice little fire in the back yard. (Which reminds me, we're way overdue for a good old-fashioned wienie roast.)

Up here, at the edge of the Panhandle, we only have saw palmettos. Down in the peninsula, we can also find scrub palmettos, which made for much nicer wienie sticks. 8-] Both are tough, slow-growing plants that sometimes live as long as 600-700 years.

The palmetto is classified as a survivor species, due to its ability to resprout from rootcrowns and rhizomes following a fire. Its fire response is so strong, if it is burned during the winter dormant season, it will produce leaves and fruit out of season. It recovers from fire quickly and will return to pre-burn levels within a year.

Palmettos demonstrate some of the water conserving features
found in many scrub
  • The leaves are covered with a coating of wax that prevents water from escaping from the surface of the leaf. One reason why Florida scrub burns so fiercely is that the heavy wax coating on palmetto leaves ignites once the leaves are heated sufficiently.
  • The leaves are tough and thick, and not easily damaged in ways that could expose the moist inner tissue.
  • The leaves are held upright when the plant is growing in open areas, so the rays of the sun hit the flat surfaces of the leaves directly during morning and afternoon, but not in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest. *

*From Palmettos: Old-timers of the Scrub


Floridacracker said...

I love them when they grow in shade and reach up, becoming very small palm trees. i have a grove near my drive that are beautiful.

My mom said the reason I weighed over ten pounds at birth was the fact that Dad made her grub palmetto trunks out of their recently cleared lot while she was pregnant with me.

Hurricane Teen said...

I had no idea palmettos could live that long! You learn something new every day!
I suppose thost adaptations you listed might be left over a little from Florida's desert past...kind of like the Prickly Pear.

SophieMae said...

FC, your mom is obviously quite a woman. Over 10lbs! DAWG!

HurTeen, I only learned recently how long they live. Amazing!