Palms for Central Texas
All are native to limestone
terrain from northern Mexico, south to Panama. I have seen them in sites
as varied as the rocky plains of the Chihuahuan Desert southeast of the
Big Bend and the cloud forests on the eastern face of the Sierra Madre
Oriental. B. armata, with strikingly blue foliage and B. beriandieri, B.
decumbens & B. moorei are grown here.
(Jelly Palm, Pindo Palm)
This group of South American
feather palms contains just one widely-available hardy species, B. capitata.
It perfoms best in well-drained sites and benefits from iron supplements
such as "Green Sand". Its fruits are edible. Butia bonnetii should
also be tried in protected sites as well as the magnificent Butia X Syagrus
hybrid, said to be hardy to 10 degrees.
(Bamboo Palm, Parlor Palm)
Though normally grown as
house plants, C. elegans, C. radicalis and a few other species can survive
most San Antonio winters. After the coldest of winters, they will resprout
slowly as root-hardy perennials. They are best grown in moist and shady
sites near the southeast wall of a heated structure.
(Mediterranean Fan Palm)
One of the hardiest palms,
suitable for sun or shade, in this region. Because of its spiny leaf-stalks,
the cluster-forming C. humilis, should not be placed near pools or children's
Cocos australis, a name
(with no botanical standing) a few troglodytes still use for Butia capitata.
Erythea armata is an older
name for Brahea armata, the Mexican Blue Palm.
A genus of two species,
Guihaia argyrata from south China and G. grossefibrosa of northern Vietnam
and Guangxi Province of China. They occur only on steep, karst (limestone)
slopes and are surprisingly cold-hardy. These low-growing, clustering plants
should be grown in sunny sites. G. argyrata has a silvery leaf underside.
(Chilean Wine Palm)
Jubaea chilensis is grown
only in the most protected sites, such as along the River Walk. In warmer,
semiarid climates, mature specimens grow very slowly to massive proportions.
(Afghan Palm, Mazari Palm)
N. ritchieana is one of
the cold-hardiest palms for this region. Regrettably, it is very slow-growing,
almost unavailable and expensive. Can be grown from seed or division of
P. canariensis, from the
Canary islands, and P. theophrasti, from Crete, are the hardiest members
of the genus. The true Date Palm of desert oasis fame, P. dactylifera is
also grown here but it seldom produces fruit since it requires cross pollination
and no rain while the fruits are forming.
R. bystrix is the cold-hardiest
palm. This slow-growing plant is also known as the "Porcupine Palm" and
thrives in shady places.
The palmettoes are quite
hardy in central Texas. The Dwarf Palmetto, S. minor, is native in Bexar
County, as well as in the Hill Country. The other garden-worthy specimens
are the tree-like S. bermudana, Bermuda Palmetto, and S. mexicana, Texas
Palmetto. Sabal uresana, if widely available, would be our most popular
palm because of its cold hardiness and blue leaf color.
S. repens, the sole species
in the genus, is native to the southeast United States. The silvery to
blue-gray leafed forms do best in sun, the greener ones in sun or shade.
Saw Palmetto berry extract is taken by many men to prevent benign enlargement
of the prostate and male pattern baldness.
Both T. fortunei, the Chinese
Windmill Palm, and the smaller-leafed T. wagnerianus (T. takil), the Nepalese
Windmill Palm, grow very well in this area.
W. filifera, California
Fan Palm, is the hardy one. W. robusta, the Mexican Fan Palm, is much less
cold hardy, yet it is still sold by some ignorant nurserymen as well as
most roadside palm vendors. Caveat emptor!