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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - April 10, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs, Trees
Title: Problems with native palms in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had a large variety of California fan palms and blue sabal palms in our yard that were damaged during the last freeze. We found that several of them now have "spear pull," which means we could pull out the core. What do you suggest as how to treat them, also, any suggestions as to a more hardy but tall palm that we can plant in Austin? Also,any way to keep a tall palm from freezing next time?

ANSWER:

Please read this previous answer on Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm, as well as following the plant link on that and the Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto). Somewhat to our surprise, both of these plants are native to North America. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and propagaton of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants are being grown.  This USDA Plant Profile map shows that the California fan palm does not grow natively in Texas at all, while this map shows that the blue sabal palm does grow in Travis County.

As we have no personal experience with palms, we went to the International Palm Society which apparently has some excellent information but requires a membership to access it. We did find information from Floridata on the Washingtonia filifera that we hope will help. Another article from Floridata on the blue sable palm also has some helpful information.

On your final question about palms that won't freeze in Austin, we suggest you do some research on "cold hardy palms"  but we think you should remember that Florida cold is not the same as Texas cold, and that palms are more a South Texas, southern California and south Florida plant.

 

From the Image Gallery


California fan palm
Washingtonia filifera

California fan palm
Washingtonia filifera

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

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