Texas Natives – October, 2007

Palms are some of the most sought after plants for emulating an exotic or tropical landscape design. It used to be said that no indigenous trunked palm could survive north of the Rio Grande. The Brazoria palmetto, Sabal x texensis, is a slow-growing but cold-tolerant palm tree native to Texas. As the common name implies, this rugged palm hails from a 43-acre site in Brazoria County, which now is under the protection of the Nature Conservancy.

Considered a natural hybrid closely related to dwarf palmetto palm (S. minor), botanists are still unsure of the origins of the Brazoria palmetto. Recent results of genetic analysis by Mark Brunell at the University of the Pacific have ruled out a genetic link with Mexican palmetto (S. mexicana), a tree palm which occurs south of the Rio Grande River.

Differences in taxonomic opinions aside, Brazoria palmetto is an attractive, evergreen plant which can attain a height of 23 feet or more and a crown width of 16 feet at maturity. The fan-shaped leaves vary in size from 4 to 7 feet wide. Long stalks of cream-colored flowers appear in late spring to early summer, followed by small, black berries. It can be grown in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Plants are heat- and drought-tolerant once established. New plants are easy to start from seed.

Ten years ago, Texas Discovery Gardens purchased 5-gallon juvenile Brazoria palmettos from a nursery in Houston. Six of these palms are established in the garden and have developed 3- to 4-foot trunks. Other specimens of Brazoria palmetto can be found at the Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center at Dallas.

This very adaptable Brazoria palmetto is worthy of a special place in our landscapes north of the Rio Grande.

See what’s happening at Texas Discovery Gardens this month. Go to www.texasdiscoverygardens.org for details.

About the author: Tina Dombrowski is the Director of Horticulture at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, Dallas. She has a particular interest in Texas native plants, butterflies, pollinating insects and their interconnected histories.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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