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August 16th, 2023

Hurricane palm: A true survivor

by R.S. Walsh

Hurricane palm (Dictyosperma) is a superior survivor in the face of high winds and punishing hurricane conditions which earned it the nickname ‘hurricane palm.’ While it’s strong enough to withstand those types of conditions, it’s also a very elegant palm earning the other common name of princess palm. A palm that can be both beautiful and strong sounds like a princess to me!

A few reasons why this palm has earned the name hurricane palm, are its unique root system and leaf structure. According to a well-known plant ecologist, Dan Metcalfe, these palms have an extensive root system that spread across the upper level of the ground which works to secure a larger amount of soil around the root ball. This helps to create a bottom heavy base to anchor the palm in the ground in the face of heavy winds. The trunk of this palm grows in a circular pattern with the annual circles creating a series of hollow cylinders inside each other making a stronger trunk structure. The fronds are also unique, they start out as straight spears springing straight up like swords from the top of the trunk. As the fronds mature, they twist and droop due to a flexible midrib giving the fronds a curving appearance. This shape frond also works as an advantage in the event of strong winds.

This palm is a self-cleaning palm so you won’t need to trim off brown fronds, this palm will do the job for you. These palms seem to do very well in South Florida, they are salt tolerant and like full sun. They don’t seem to be prone to micro-nutrient deficiencies and are generally a hardy palm. Whether you like it for its beauty or its strength, this palm would be a great choice for your island landscape.

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

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