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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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Wednesday - July 03, 2013

From: Keystone Heights, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Trees
Title: Non-native Sago palm roots damaging house foundation from Keystone Heights FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Will sago palms roots hurt a house's foundation if too close?

ANSWER:

From Wikipedia: "Cycas revoluta (king sago, sago cycad, Japanese sago palm), is a species of gymnosperm in the family Cycadaceae, native to southern Japan. Cycads are not closely related to the true palms (Arecaceae)."

This puts this plant out of our area of expertise. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown; in your case, Clay County in northeastern Florida. While it is not native to North America, we know that a great many Sago Palms are grown, particularly in Florida, so we are going to find some information on the plant.

From Dave's Garden Sago 'Palm" care and cultivation. You will note the quotation marks around the word 'palm.' This plant is actually a cycad. (From the University of California at Berkeley Museum of Paleontology). Here is a video on cycads; the best we can tell is that they do not have a large spreading root. In fact, they are often grown in pots, which we would assume just means they do not have extending roots that could damage foundations. It would probably still be well to not plant it too close to a building because of the damage that could be done to the plant itself if wind pushed it against a wall. More information and pictures.

There are 9 members of the Arecaceae (true palm) family native to North America and 7 of those are native to Florida: Acoelorraphe wrightii (Everglades palm), Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle palm), Roystonea elata (Florida royal palm), Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto), Sabal palmetto (Cabbage palmetto) and Serenoa repens (Saw palmetto).

 

From the Image Gallery


Needle palm
Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

Cabbage palmetto
Sabal palmetto

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