Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not more queen palms!

A restaurant wins a landscape award with its queen palms, but why?
The St. Augustine Beach Tree Board and Beautification Advisory Board for landscaping awarded this restaurant with their Best Commercial category. See the article in the St Augustine Times, The Groove landscape wins honor.

The restaurant opened in May 2011 and planted their landscape with queen palms, "other varieties of palms, Buddha bamboo, oleander, alamanda and hibiscus. Liriope is used as a ground cover in some areas." Not one native plant was mentioned. If we'd had a cold winter in north Florida, those queen palms would look terrible even this late into the season.

No doubt the common name for the queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) arises from the regal appearance of a healthy specimen with its long feathery fronds that droop in a graceful arch. They are readily available from big box stores and nurseries all over Florida, but why? There are definite problems with this palm in Florida's landscapes.

Here are the four big reasons why you should find another palm for your landscape:
1) Queen palms are tropical plants and are NOT cold tolerant. If the temperatures dip below 25ยบ F, most of its fronds will die. After a cold winter, if the palm's growing stem survives, it'll look like hell for six months or longer.
2) Unlike most palms, queens are not wind resistant. In a tabulation of trees lost in the hurricanes in 2004 and 2006, queens blew over twice as much as any other palm. You know hurricanes are coming to coastal areas like St. Augustine Beach, why not plant something more likely to survive?
3) Queen palms are not drought tolerant and will require irrigation to survive our seven-moth dry season, especially during a prolonged drought period.
4) Queen palms produce a huge amount of seed, which quickly becomes a smelly mess. Plus in central and south Florida, queens palms have invaded our natural habitats and are listed on the II Florida invasives list put toether by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC):

Why would you spend money to put this plant in your landscape?
And why would the St. Augustine Beach Tree Board award a landscape that is not sustainable?

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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