Florida Thatch Palm

Florida Thatch Palm Plant Information

Florida Thatch Palm grows in the following 1 states:


Thrinax radiata, the Florida thatch palm, is a medium to slow growing palm in the family Arecaceae, that is indigenous to many Caribbean islands, Central America, and far southern Florida. On average this species reaches a height of 20 feet with large compoundly segmented leaves which are 4 to 5 feet wide and 2.5 feet long. Like all palms, this species grows thick and low to the ground before sending its meristem vertical, gaining the form of a slender tree.

This species has no crownshaft and the canopy appears to emerge directly from the trunk. The leaves are palmate and divide into segments about halfway down their length with the leaf emerging from the petiole in what is described as a pointed hastula shape. The entire canopy consists of between 10 and 20 large leaves and on average gains only 6 inches of height per year. This palm does best in full sun but can tolerate moderate amounts of shade. The shape of the canopy will vary depending on its amount of insolation with full sun specimens appearing more globular or compact and shaded specimens having a longer, more spread out, canopy. The inflorescences of this species can begin developing when the tree is only 6 feet tall, exceed 3 feet in length, arch downwards, and can extend below the frond. The flowers are bisexual and occur year round, with peak production in the spring. The flowers and resulting infructescences, called drupes, are white and like the flowers can be seen year round. For many years there was debate over the phylogenetic classification of this species. It has been distinguished and separated from the genus Cocothrinax by its white drupes whereas Cocothrinax species have Black or yellow drupes. Another distinguishing characteristic of Thrinax are split leaf bases while the latter is distinguished by an entire, or fused, leaf base.
Thrinax radiata is found primarily in coastal scrub areas from the Caribbean to Mexico, and can even grow in exposed limestone. It is also occasionally found in pinelands in South Florida and semi-evergreen forests in the Yucatn peninsula. Its seeds are eaten and presumably dispersed by many animals including bats, spider monkeys, toucans, armadillos, and deer. Young leaves are also eaten by spider monkeys, and mature ones serve as a refuge for several bat species In Florida (Elliott Key in particular), the invasive Mexican red-bellied squirrel (Sciurus aureogaster) has had an extremely negative impact on T. radiata populations. It uses palm fibers as nesting materials and consumes the palm itself, often killing the plant.
Thrinax radiata belongs to the order Arecales, family Arecaceae, genus Thrinax, and the species T. radiata
Florida thatch palm, Jamaican thatch, Chit, Silk-top thatch palm, Sea thatch palm, Caribbean thatch palm.
In the wild, this species almost always grows close to coastal areas where it is adapted to tolerating heavy winds, high concentrations of salt, and even drought. It naturally grows in sandy and calcareous soils where it does best in basic, high pH, soil conditions. This species is native to regions of the southern United States and the Florida Keys, western Cuba, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Hispaniola, the eastern coast of the Yucatn Peninsula of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
The Florida thatch palm, Thrinax radiata, is listed as endangered by the USDA and state of Florida. While it is commonly cultivated as a landscape plant in residential areas, its status is the wild is poor and it is only rarely encountered. There are currently no specific efforts being undertaken to reduce the severity of this status in the United States. There are, however, restrictions on harvesting in Mexico, where human use has had a greater impact on T. radiata populations.
This species is commonly used as a landscaping tree along roadways and in residential areas in South Florida. Today, it is being widely planted outside of its natural historic range in South Florida and the Caribbean because of its ability to grow under various conditions. It is used by gardeners and can be grown in containers or in arboretums, which showcase this species- prolific inflorescences and fruit. Its common name derives from the use of its fronds in thatched roofing. Its fronds are the most used part of the palm, being utilized in broom construction, handicrafts, and food wrapping. While T. radiata's white fruit are inedible, its trunks have recently been used to construct lobster traps by fishermen in the Yucatn peninsula.

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