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May 5th, 2021

Buccaneer Palm is an Unusual and Unique Island Native

by R.S. Walsh

To bring the unusual and unique to an island native garden, the addition of a silvery-blue buccaneer palm is a great choice. This specimen palm has lots to recommend it for island living. They are very salt tolerant, slow growing and wind tolerant. No two Buccaneer palms seem to be alike as each palm has its own distinct growth habits.

Some buccaneer palms develop long fronds and others have heavier trunks, and some will develop fronds that are more blue or more green. They have a fan-shaped frond and do well planted as a double or triple stem palm. Even when planted side by side, in the same soil, you could end up with two palms that look different from each other, making them truly unique even among their own variety of palms. They prefer full sun, but will grow in part shade. This palm doesn’t like to be too far from the coast, as it doesn’t tolerate cold weather, although as a potted palm on a sunny patio or pool deck it would do fine.

These palms grow in the Florida Keys and are in fact native to Sanibel Island, as well as parts of Mexico and the Caribbean. The name ‘buccaneer palm’ likely is derived from the fact that this palm is found in most of the places favored by the pirates and buccaneers that roamed the Caribbean. Because these palms are a coastal island native, they can be planted in direct gulf exposure on the beach side of your home as few other palms can be. You don’t have to worry about losing your beach view as these palms rarely exceed 10-15 inches in height. You can plant them close to the house or drive for a pop of silvery beauty and not worry about them outgrowing the space, because of their slow growth pattern.

When you have a tough spot that’s salty, windy and sandy and you want a native, specimen palm, the buccaneer palm may be just the one for you. It has an interesting name that’s fun to talk about and is tough enough to handle our coastal island environment. What more could you want from a specimen palm.

This column is a joint effort by all at In The Garden, Sanibel Island’s garden center, located at 3889 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel Island.

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