Recently, Dr. Doug Goldman of the USDA determined that the unusually robust palms in Brazoria County, Texas were actually a new hybrid species, Sabal x brazoriensis, the result of an ancient cross between S. minor and probably S. palmetto.
Montgomery has one of the most extensive living collections of Sabal palms known, but this new hybrid species was not among them. So, this past week, MBC Executive Director Dr. Patrick Griffith teamed up with Doug, Mr. Thomas Adams of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Col. Michael Griffith to study and collect these unique palms.
Perhaps only a few hundred Brazoria Palms survive in the wild. Fortunately, most of these thrive in a single 45-acre forest of oaks and elms, which was recently protected as part of the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. The team collected seeds, herbarium specimens, and photographs, which will help conserve and document this very rare natural hybrid species.
Montgomery is grateful to Thomas for his time, knowledge and expertise, the Paul Drummond Fund for Palm Conservation for funding this fieldwork, the US Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to collect the palms, and to Mike and Sylvia Griffith for hospitality and logistical support. (Mountgomery Botanical Center)
Sabal: There are many fossil records for costapalmate leaves; they are the earliest type of fossil palm leaves recovered to date. The leaves are usually described under the fossil genus Sabalites, even though there are a number of other modern, predominantly coryphoid, genera, that have costapalmate leaves. The re-circumscription of Sabalites by Read and Hickey (1972) embraces any palmate leaf, ‘with a definite costa or extension of the petiole into the blade’, whereas Palmacites is recommended for palm-like leaves that are, ‘pure palmate, lacking a costa or extension of the petiole into the blade’.
New fossil genera for costapalmate leaves, Costapalma, and for palmate leaves, Palustrapalma, were published by Daghlian (1978), but these genera have not been widely adopted. Other Sabal-like fossils include small monosulate pollen grains and, rarely, leaf cuticle and fruits. The fossil genus Sabalites is not only used frequently as a generic name for costapalmate leaves but also applied to fruits. The oldest record of Sabalites appears to be S. carolinensis Berry (Berry 1914b) from the Upper Cretaceous (Coniacian-Lower Santonian Black Creek Formation [Middendorf arkose member] of South Carolina [USA]); this is also the oldest palm fossil assignable below family level. Sabalites magothiensis (Berry) Berry (Berry 1905, 1911) from the Santonian of Maryland and New Jersey (USA) and S. longirhachis (Unger) J. Kvac˘ek and Hermann (Hermann and Kvac˘ek 2002; Kvac˘ek and Hermann 2004) from the Lower Campanian of Austria are somewhat younger. Other Upper Cretaceous records include, from North America (Wyoming), S. eocenica (originally described from an Eocene location) and S. montana (Dorf 1942); and fragments of a large fan leaf, Sabalites sp. (Berry 1919a), from Tennessee (Ripley Formation). An incompletely preserved costapalmate leaf, S. ooaraiensis, (Ôyama and Matsuo 1964) is described from the fluvial deposits of the Upper Cretaceous Ôarai flora on the coast of Naka-gawa. From the Palaeocene onwards, records of costapalmate leaves become more frequent and widespread. In North America, records for the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains have been reviewed by Brown (1962), whereas records for the Middle and Upper Eocene floras of southeastern North America were reviewed by (Berry 1924) and also by Daghlian (1978). Details of leaf venation, adaxial and abaxial epidermal cells and stomatal cell arrangement allowed Daghlian (1978) to make direct comparison between the Eocene Sabal dortchii Daghlian and the modern genus. Other Tertiary records come from Europe: southern England (Palaeocene) (Reid and Chandler 1933, Chandler 1961b, 1961c, 1962, 1963); France, Tertiary (Saporta 1865); Germany, Upper Eocene–Miocene (Mai and Walther 1978), Miocene (Van der Burgh 1984); Switzerland, Upper Oligocene (Büchler 1990); Czech Republic, Miocene (Kva˘cek 1998); and Hungary, Oligocene (Andreánszky 1949). A relationship with the fossil Sabal major Unger was suggested for the inflorescence and rachilla of Tuzsonia hungarica (Andreánszky 1949), based on associated palm leaf fragments. However, the pollen described from individual flowers is probably too small, and the exine pattern unlike that of modern Sabal pollen. A number of Tertiary records have also been found: in Russia, Caucasus, Middle Miocene (Takhtajan 1958); Kamchatka Peninsula, Eocene (Budantsev 1979); and Transcaucasia, Oligocene (Akhmetiev 1989; leaf and associated monosulcate pollen); and in India, a leaf axis (Trivedi and Verma 1981) from the Deccan Intertrappean of Madhya Pradesh (although the age span of these volcanic deposits is controversial. Four species of Sabalites leaves are reported from the Tertiary of China (Peking Institute of Botany, and Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology 1978) and, from the Eocene of Japan, leaf fragments have been recorded from lignite mines in Hokkaido: Sabalites nipponica (Kryshtofovich 1918). Subfossil fragments of clasping petiole bases and seeds (‘stones’) are reported by Berry (1917) from the Pleistocene of Vero (Florida). Fossil fruits are reported from southern England, Lower Eocene as Sabal grandisperma (Reid and Chandler 1933); and Germany (Geiseltal), Eocene as S. bracknellense (Mai 1976). Few dispersed monosulcate fossil palm-like pollen can be confidently assigned to Sabal. This is because the pollen of many genera in tribes Sabaleae, Cryosophileae, Trachycarpeae and Chuniophoeniceae share similar size ranges and exine characteristics. Records include Sabalpollenites sp. from the Eocene of North America (Tennessee) (Potter 1976), Sabal sp. from the Lower Eocene of southern England (Khin Sein 1961), and three new Miocene species of finely reticulate Sabalpollenites from the Czech Republic (Konzalova 1971) (this association is questionable because the exine of Sabal pollen tends to be finely to coarsely perforate, or perforate and micro-channelled). There are also records from the Lower Miocene of Poland (Macko 1957) and from the Tertiary of China (Sabalpollenites areolatus; Song et al. 1999). (J. Dransfield, N. Uhl, C. Asmussen, W.J. Baker, M. Harley and C. Lewis. 2008)/Palmweb.
Uses: Formerly used for making brooms and locally as a source of thatch. Many species are important ornamentals.
Bibliography: Dransfield, J. , Uhl, N. , Asmussen, C. , Baker, W.J. , Harley, M. & Lewis, C. 2008. Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
The following 18 pages are in this category, out of 18 total.