PLANT OF THE WEEK: Royal Palm

By on December 14, 2011.

Roystonea spp.–  When vacationers and visitors enter into tropical  Florida, the Royal Palm is there to signify their arrival. Tall and graceful with a bright green crownshaft, the Royal Palm is hard to miss. Its statuesque nature and towering heights have made it a trademark of the South Florida environment. Several species exist in the Caribbean and Gulf and are all restricted to sub-tropical latitudes. Roystonea elata is the contested Florida native species and is said to be better adapted  to swampy, everglades environments in the wild. Roystonea regia, native to Cuba is the more common species found in the nursery and landscape.

Size/Habit/Lifetime: Royal palms can reach heights of up to 100 ft and commonly seen 30-50 ft tall. A broad base in youth can measure up to 30″  caliper and grows to a vase shape trunk in maturity. Habit is straight and vertical, bending only out of necessity for sunlight. Rather long lived, like many palms.

Culture:  Very adapting to most soils, prefers well drained sand and salt tolerant. Needs bright and sunny conditions to thrive. USDA zones 10-11. Has also been known to grow in suitable micro-climates near Tampa and Cape Canaveral, Fl as well as Galveston and Houston, Texas.


Leaf/Stem/Trunk: Leaves are pinnate, 10-20 feet long with individual leaflets measuring to 1 foot.  Leaf color is bright green on both top and bottom. Trunk is gray-white and concrete-like in thickness and color.

Flower/Fruit:  Flowers are borne in a large bract where the gray trunk meets the crownshaft. Tiny yellow-green  flowers , mature into blue to black fruits measuring to just over 1 cm.

Use: The Royal Palm can be used in a variety of ways.  It is well suited as a stately entry corridor and boulevard planting.  The wide light gray trunks offer splendid contrast to darker backgrounds and can frame a facade as well as Corinthian columns. Can be a single lawn specimen, roundabout circle plantings, or the large crown can function as a background layer screen or buffer. Due to its size, it is more inclined to larger properties as the large fronds shed occasionally.


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