Today I did a presentation on Dwarf Palmettos for my master gardening class. Besides vegetable gardening, one of my other horticulture hobbies is rehabilitating the abused and neglected woods near my house. Lower Coast Algiers (aka: English Turn) has the LAST stand of bottomland hardwood forest in Orleans parish, and my goal is to rehab at least the few acres in my care, and possibly beyond. Right now there’s many abandoned acres still plagued with junk piles and scrappy underbrush. (Believe it or not, people still drive down here and try to illegally dump – sometimes in the middle of the street!)
This brings me to Dwarf Palmetto, aka: Sabal minor. Native to Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast region, they were found in abundance in Lower Coast Algiers’ woods. Unfortunately they’ve had to fight for space with invasive species like Chinese Tallow and Chinese Privet, and they’ve become sparse. The photo above is a slide from my presentation’s powerpoint. Sidenote: I’m not sure why the biological classification is coming up “unranked”, but three separate websites had it written that way.
Here’s an instagram pic I took of one on my property during winter.
Besides being a staple of a healthy bottomland hardwood forest, Dwarf Palmettos are landscaping troopers. They love our heat and don’t mind our freezes so they can endure pretty far north for a palm. They’re also not too picky about soil conditions. You’ll often see them in landscaping when a tropical look is desired. This is a random photo of one used in landscaping.
Dwarf Palmettos are slow growers, but can get up to 9 feet tall and nearly as wide. I took this photo at Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana’s newest state park near Abbeville (very south of Lafayette). The palmettos there are huge and abundant.
One thing that sets them apart from most other palms is that their trunks are underground so they appear “trunkless”. This makes digging them up and transplanting them very difficult, as you can see…
We aren’t the only ones who love palmettos. I walked right by Mr Copperhead snake here before doing a double-take and snapping this photo. Snakes like to bask in the filtered sunlight during the spring and summer and palmettos make perfect little beds.
So my next step is to learn how to propagate Dwarf Palmettos! I already know what their seeds look like, but my lame attempt at tossing a few into some potting soil last year yielded nothing. I’m told their seeds are not very aggressive so I’ll have to hit the books and find out what kinda love song these guys need to get it on.