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Fieldwork for a New Sabal species.

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’.