Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Trees: Palm Trees-PawPaw
Palm Trees: Florida is home to a variety of native Palm trees, including the fllowing:
Coconut Palm  (Cocos nucifera)- A unique tree, with no really close relatives, the coconut palm is considered to be one of the most useful trees in the world. While the coconut can be found growing throughout the tropical regions of the world, its center of origin is not exactly known.  Fossilized coconuts have been found in New Zealand, and the trees have been cultivated for over 4,000 years in India.  This leads most botanists to believe that the species originated somewhere around the Indian Ocean. This large, single-trunked palm has a smooth, columnar trunk with a light grayish-brown color; the trunk is topped with a terminal crown of leaves. Tall varieties may attain a height of 80 - 100 feet while dwarf varieties are shorter in stature. The trunk is slender and often swollen at the base. The trunk is typically curved or leaning, but is erect in some cultivars.

Florida Royal Palm
(Roystonea regia)- Truly an aristocrat of the plant kingdom, this palm makes a memorable impression wherever it is grown. Massive and symmetrical with a smoothly sculpted trunk this palm looks almost artificial, like a denizen of an idealized Disney landscape. But it is real and lends a distinctive air to parkways and boulevards all over South Florida and the Caribbean. The Florida Royal Palm  is native to the cypress swamps of south Florida. It is disappearing from the wild but nice stands can still be seen at the Royal Palm Visitors Center near Homestead, Florida in the Everglades National Park. Royals like water and look their best when given adequate amounts. At home in cypress swamps, the Florida Royal Palm tolerates occasional flooding.

Sabal Palm
(Sabal Palmetto)- The sabal palm is Florida's state tree. It is commonly known as the cabbage palm. These palms can tolerate more salt water than other upland trees. They often persist long after oaks, cedar, and pine have died from tidal flooding. The sabal palm takes several forms, depending on age, fire, and storm history. As the tree grows, old leaf bases may remain on the trunk. These old leaf bases are called "boots." The "boots" typically found on younger trees may be removed by fires or storms. In spite of differences in shape and size, the sabal palm can be identified by the "curving" rib in the center of each frond.

Saw Palmetto
(Serenoa repens)- Saw palmetto is a small hardy fan palm whose stem usually remains below ground or runs just along the surface. In some cases, it develops an arching trunk that may lift the whorl of leaves 2-8 ft above ground. The fruits are round, black when ripe and about an inch in diameter. Saw Palmetto Palm Tree likes full sun but will tolerate some shade. It needs moderate watering but is very tough in a drought conditions. The cluster of leaves gets about 4-6 ft high with a similar spread. The leaf stems are about 2 ft long and sharply saw-toothed.

Paradise tree  (Simarouba glauca)- Paradise Tree is found in coastal hammocks throughout South Florida, the Keys, the Caribbean and Tropical America.  Relatively fast growing, it is a common component of the upper canopy, effortlessly reaching heights of greater than 40 feet.  New growth emerges as flames of red and gold. Paradise trees tend to grow rapidly in the rainy season, and rest during periods of cool weather and reduced sunlight. The paradise tree is a marvelous creation. It mops up carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, its leaves provide shade and then fall to the ground as life-giving mulch. Its deep roots prevent soil erosion. Every part of the tree is used for medicinal purposes. Natives use it to cure intestinal parasites, fevers, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, anemia, colitis, herpes, influenza, polio, West Nile virus and other viruses, stomach and bowel disorders, as an astringent for wounds and sores, to stop bleeding and as a tonic. It is currently being studied as a toxin to cancer and leukemia cells.

Pawpaw: Pawpaw is in the same family (Annonaceae) as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop, and it is the only member of that family not confined to the tropics.
Scrub Pawpaw  (Asimina obovata) -Sometimes called flag pawpaw, the scrub pawpaw is restricted to scrubs in central and coastal peninsular Florida. Scrub pawpaw is a shrub that resprouts after fire and reaches up to 6-10' in height. The beautiful flowers are fragrant and up to 4" across. They are followed by sweet, banana-like fruits up to 3" long that are relished by wildlife. (Bet you can't find a ripe one!) The foliage of all the pawpaws is malodorous and this one is no exception. Cattle leave it alone, and often the only plants above ground level in a pasture are the pawpaws. Scrub pawpaws bloom in the early spring and put on quite a show!

Reticulate Pawpaw (Asimina reticulata)- The reticulate pawpaw or Dog banana  is a deciduous shrub about four and one half feet tall. It is densely branched and has oblong leaves that are alternate, leathery and have rounded tips. The top of the reticulate pawpaw leaf is pale green and the underside is grayish with reddish brown veins. Fragrant flowers (singular or clustered) hang down from the upper leaf axils. They appear mid-spring before or with the leaves and have six creamy white petals. The three inner petals have purplish markings. The edible reticulate pawpaw fruit is oblong and yellowish green. This pawpaw occurs in pine flatwoods, coastal scrubs and sandhills in the central and southern part of Florida. 
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