Native Palms of Florida

When planning a new landscape, don’t forget our native palms of Florida and the berries, insects and nest sites that they provide our local wildlife. Even a dead palm is a great site for local woodpeckers to carve out a nest hole.

Native palms can be combined with each other and plants of the same habitat for a tropical look. For a piece of the Florida Keys try a variety of thatch palms and other Keys plants. For wet areas mix everglades palm, needle palm and royal palm with red maple, and giant leather fern. Saw palmetto can be mixed with slash pine or planted next to your home, while sabal palms can go anywhere. I enjoy walking out my front door into a forest of sabal palms, red bay and other palms and shrubs. It is easy to view birds from our windows and the shade keeps our home cooler. Once established, there is no need to water and the shade keeps weeds out.

One way to make the most of your palms is to plant corky stem passion vine next to them. This native will grow among the boots and provide larval food for the zebra longwing, fritillaries and Julia butterflies. It is beautiful to watch these butterflies hover around the plant. The viny snowberry will also grow on palms with its white fruit cascading from the boots. The bell shaped flowers are cream colored and fragrant and attract a variety of nectaring butterflies.

While visiting friends, we watched a pair of red bellied woodpeckers bring food to their young hidden inside a hole in a dead Christmas palm. Coopers hawks nest in the top fronds of a sabal palm near our home each year. Even bats roost in them during the day before flying out at night to clear the skies of insect pests. Did you know that the honey made from the nectar of the saw palmetto flower is the most flavorful in Florida? Many butterflies including the atala hairstreak also nectar on these flowers.

The end of April brought a swarm of migrating warblers and other birds through our area. The redstarts and other warblers fly under the leaves of palms to scare out blue leaf hoppers which are snapped up as they try to fly off. Bud aphids provided a more leisurely eaten meal. It was exciting to see indigo buntings, a Baltimore oriole, parula warblers and others passing through.

If your palms are planted in the right situation, they will need no care once established. Old fronds are good wildlife havens and will snap or fall off when ready. Palms hold up well in a hurricane which is why original Floridian yards utilized them often. And what says Florida more than palm trees in your yard?