Thrinax radiata

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Thrinax (TRI-naks)
radiata (rah-dee-AH-tah)
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Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Photo by Jim Conrad.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Thrinax (TRI-naks)
Species:
radiata (rah-dee-AH-tah)
Synonyms
None set.
Native Continent
America
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Morphology
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Culture
Survivability index
Common names
Green Thatch Palm, Florida Thatch Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Is., Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica,
Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Keith C. Austin
Mexico Southeast, Nicaragua. This typically solitary palm is Found mostly as part of coastal scrub habitat, but may appear sporadically in pinelands, or at the base of any tree where birds roost.

Description

Florida thatch palm has a slender trunk, Typically 10-20 feet in height; maximum height of up to 30' takes decades to achieve. Topped with a cluster of 12-20 deep green palmate leaves, fan-shaped fronds about 2-3 feet in diameter, segments 2.5’ long, 2” wide. The fronds are supported by slender petioles (stems) and collectively can form a dense, rounded canopy. The petiole base is forked, like an upside-down V, and persists on the trunk. Each frond is rounded and its segmented leaflets are medium to dark green above with silvery gray undersides. In warm months, branched flower stalks appear among the leaves. The inconspicuous flowers along the stem are bisexual and wind-pollinated. The fruits that follow are white, round 1-1.5 inches wide, and eaten by songbirds.

The Florida thatch palm is a slender, solitary, very slow-growing, palmate fan palm. Growth averages no more than 6 inches a year. It may grow to a height of 30 feet, but it is often much smaller. It is adapted to growing in full sun or varying shade. Its canopy is dense and globular in full sun and open and airy under shade. The entire trunk of young specimens are generally shaggy with matted fibers held between old leaf bases. The trunk of many older specimens are matted at the top; the mid and lower trunk is rough and gray; the base often has a mass of tight protruding roots. Trunk diameters are normally 3—5 inches. Typically the Florida Thatch palm produces 12– 20 palmate fronds. The fronds are induplicate, circular and slightly folded. The segments are divided about halfway, split and pendant at the tip. Fronds are green above with yellow ribs, lighter green or yellow green beneath. They have a distinct pointed hastula protruding from the frond’s center. At maturity the leaf will be 4-5 feet wide on an unarmed petiole of 2-3 feet. The inflorescence is 3 feet long or more and arches downward, sometimes extending beyond the frond. The Florida thatch palm flowers all year but its peak bloom occurs in spring. The bisexual flowers are white. Palms as short as 6 feet will begin flowering. Drupes are seen throughout the year, but are more abundant in the fall. The drupes are about 1/4 inch in diameter and are also white. (lee.ifas.ufl.edu) Editing by edric.


Culture

Full sun to partial shade and sandy, very well-drained, preferably calcareous soil, that is relatively moist in the growing season and drier in winter. Palms grown in more shade are slower growing and have rangier habits. Once established, this palm exhibits fair cold tolerance, (28°F leaf damage) and is quite resilient to tropical storm winds. It is very salt and drought tolerant, making it ideal for Oceanside gardens, xeric landscapes and dry foundation plantings. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a.

The Florida thatch palm grows well in the high pH of calcareous material. This material is frequently used for roadway and residential construction in south Florirda. It is a relatively cold tolerant species and is able to survive temperatures as low as 26°F. While tolerant of seaside spray it does not take well to being inundated by salt or brackish water.

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Comments and Curiosities

Life-span is up to 150 years.

Conservation: This species is listed as endangered by the state of Florida.

"Thrinax has white berries and Coccothrinax has purple, if you ever catch them in seed." (Scott)

"Young palms of this species are very attractive, but should really only be grown in humid environments- this palm struggles even in the zone 10a in southern California but does great even in marginal areas of Florida which are colder, but a lot more humid. I have tried with this palm and even though I still have some surviving plants in the ground after 5 years, it is not a good palm for me... it literally seems to shrink every year- stem gets a bit narrower, and leaves much smaller... Oh well. Commonly sold in clumps in nursery outlet stores as indoor palms, but it's not too good for that use, either. Native of Florida and the Caribbean islands. Solitary fan palm with large, nearly circular deeply split leaves that droop after the split. THrinax palms look a lot initially like Coccothrinax palms but the trunk looks very different- this genus has split leaf bases, while Coccothrinax palms do not." (Geoff Stein)


External Links

References

Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).


Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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