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sarasota alex

Sabal mauritiiformis and Sabal yapa in habitat (with ancient Mayan backdrop)

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sarasota alex

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding the similarities/differences in the anatomical features of these two species.

After seeing both palms in habitat over the last couple of years, the identification process has become a lot less confusing to me, as I've learned to better recognize the distinct looks of each of the two species. Hopefully these photos will help others as well.

First - Sabal mauritiiformis photographed in the ancient Mayan city of Lamanai in Belize.

Here are some mature ones hiding behind other trees.

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Beautiful juvenile specimen

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Some closeups of the leaves

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Another very tall mature palm

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Typical shape of the Sabal mauritiiformis crown

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Some inflorescence details

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The most abundant and the most dominant palm in the jungle there is Attalea cohune. Here they surround a lonely Sabal

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Some more leaves

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Leaf closeup

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Another juvenile specimen

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Another young Sabal with a fruiting Chamaedorea oblongata behind it and a baby Cryosophila stauracantha right next to it on the right. Notice how similar the leaves are even though Sabal and Cryosophila are not closely related, including the silver undersides. Convergent evolution at work.

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sarasota alex

Pictures of Sabal yapa come from Yucatan and unfortunately the weather was not cooperating as nicely as it was in Belize. So I ended up with fewer photos and the quality was often poor. Also I have more photos of young palms because I did not want to point my lens up and let rain get on it.

Once again - the Mayan ruins. These are juvenile Sabal yapa growing in Chichen Itza.

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Closeup

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Another young palm

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And another

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Some S. yapa are growing in an anthropogenic setting in the areas occupied by the souvenir vendors

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The distinct leaf shape of Sabal yapa can be seen in this overpruned couple

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A mature S. yapa near the entrace to the Ik Kil cenote

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Closeups of inflorescences and leaves

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There were thousands of wild Sabal yapa growing where a rural highway cut through the Yucatan Peninsula near the town of Villadolid

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Typical shapes of a Sabal yapa crown

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Some photos taken from a moving vehicle

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Ken Johnson

Nice post Alex! Thanks! B)

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Zeeth

Very cool! They do look different in these pictures.

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Eric in Orlando

Those are awesome !

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virtualpalm

Thanks for sharing, Alex. I do see some differences, but if you were describing these two palms as separate species, which characteristics would you use to separate them?

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sarasota alex

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

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sonoranfans

looks to me like yapa leaflets are more erect and leaflets terminate in groups of 2. the mauritiiformis appear less erect, terminate in more than two leaflet tips(mine are typically 4) and have the whitish undersides on juveniles. the yapa leaflet tips tend to fold instead of weep like mauritiiformis and the terminal leaflet tips are sharper and more pronounced. As I recall the best identifiers are the branching orders of inflorescences. My mauritiiformis from Ken is a dead ringer for the mauritiiformis shown here, not erect but weeping and terminate in groups of 4 leaflet tips with the whiteish undersides. Nice photos Alex! Great to see them in habitat!

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sarasota alex

Thanks for sharing, Alex. I do see some differences, but if you were describing these two palms as separate species, which characteristics would you use to separate them?

Jody, when it comes to leaf anatomy the first thing I would look for is the curvature of the leaves. Neither of these species exhibit a prominent costa (although it's a little more obvious in S. yapa). Both species have a recurved midrib, however the costa of Sabal yapa has more effect on the overall appearance of the leaf as it seems to curve the entire leaf (like in a S. palmetto and most other Sabals) as opposed to just a couple of attached segments as it does in S. mauritiiformis. Also in S. mauritiiformis the majority of the leaflets appear to be connected in the same spot (at the base of the hastula) and only a few are attached along the costa. In S. yapa the leaflets are a bit more evenly distributed (once again like in most Sabals) along the midrib. Also S. yapa have thicker leaves and they do appear to be somewhat stiffer.

The inflorescences are also very distinctly different, but many of these two species in cultivation are not mature enough to have it.

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sarasota alex

looks to me like yapa leaflets are more erect and leaflets terminate in groups of 2. the mauritiiformis appear less erect, terminate in more than two leaflet tips(mine are typically 4) and have the whitish undersides on juveniles. the yapa leaflet tips tend to fold instead of weep like mauritiiformis and the terminal leaflet tips are sharper and more pronounced. As I recall the best identifiers are the branching orders of inflorescences. My mauritiiformis from Ken is a dead ringer for the mauritiiformis shown here, not erect but weeping and terminate in groups of 4 leaflet tips with the whiteish undersides. Nice photos Alex! Great to see them in habitat!

Thanks for the feedback! I agree.

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doranakandawatta

What else could you wish from Palmtalk Forum ?

Many thanks for these so interesting pictures , seeing palm species in habitat is so instructive .

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virtualpalm

Thanks for the input. What would you call these?

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Mike Evans

Nice habitat pics in the ancient lands. You gotta love the stretched petioles and silvery undersides of the mauritiformis when shade grown. Thanks for posting Alex.

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virtualpalm

Keith and I both think they are S. yapa but a well-known palm guru said he thought they were S. mauritiiformis... so now we don't know.

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sarasota alex

Jody I also think they are S. yapa, but they do look kinda massive. Ken, Andrew and others have been telling me that there is another form of S. yapa that is more robust out there. Maybe it's that.

Also, speaking of forms... I do vaguely remember seeing in photographs somewhere that the S. mauritiiformis population on Trinidad is more prominently costapalmate than the others. I was searching the web for any pictures to back me up there and found this old thread http://www.palmtalk.org/forum/index.php?/topic/4248-sabal-mauritiformis/ . The first few photos are from Trinidad. Please tell me what you think.

And thanks again everyone!

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The Steve

Nice, well researched, post.

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virtualpalm

Anybody know what the difference in branching order of the inflorescence between the two?

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Brahea Axel

This is a great post, it's great to see all these palms in habitat, but I am still at a complete loss as to what distinguishes these two species. The pictures look identical to me. I don't see what the differences in morphology are between the two species. Looks like a single species to me with possibly two distinct forms.

On the other hand, my yapa and mauritiformis are quite easy to tell apart, perhaps it's just about seeing them in person as opposed to someone else's picture. I have three mauritiformis that are growing quite well for me relative to all the other sabal species I grow, and one yapa. See http://www.palmtalk.org/forum/index.php?/topic/38882-sabal-yapa/page-2 for the original discussion that perhaps motivated this post. I think I will stick with the original labeling these came as.

They're both beautiful palms. From a horticultural perspective, what matters most is which one is hardier species. In my garden both species have natural overhead protection from frost via oak tree canopy and good hillside drainage because I have not been able to find any good hardiness data. I'm going to go by Geoff Stein's assessment and treat yapa as the weaker, more cold sensitive species. If it's worth anything as a data point, I saw Edith's sabal mauritiformis in her cold zone 9b garden in Atherton after last January's cold. She had a completely defoliated 30 feet tall majesty palm, some damaged kings and a burnt phoenix rupicola. The sabal mauritiformis had less damage than the king palms.

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virtualpalm

The palms in my photo are 3, so they must be S. yapa. Thank you all for your help.

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