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sabal yapa

Mauna Kea Cloudforest

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Scott Zona, in his monograph, states the following characteristics regarding connate leaf-segments that could possibly be used as pretty reliable identifiers between these two species based on foliar characteristics alone. Obviously green vs. glaucous is not a reliable key unless you have a glaucous individual (which would indicate that you would have a mauritiiformis as opposed to the supposedly always-green yapa):

S. yapa: leaves evenly green…segments 90-115 per leaf, connate in groups of 2 (rarely 3) for ca. 50% of their length, the groups connate for only ca. 15% of their length…

S. mauritiiformis: leaves evenly green or strongly glaucous…segments 90-120 per leaf, connate in groups of 2-3 for nearly their entire length (rarely solitary), the groups connate for only ca. 30% of their length…

Also, if you can get your hands on an inflorescence, S. yapa has three orders of branching, and S. mauritiiformis has the very unusual characteristic of four orders of branching. That would of course be a very good indicator.

So glaucous undersides always means mauritiformis? Looks like I have mauritoformis only.

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And here's some great S. mauritiformis examples.

To me, the S. yapa seems spikier, and has the glaucous undersides if nothing else. Yapa seems MUCH more costapalmate, while mauritiformis has a much flatter leaf.

I really think id's on young plants are pretty much impossible.



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  • 1 month later...


I think your two pictures above are perfect examples of younger mauritiiformis and yapa respectively. I just got back from the Yucatan and had the chance to see thousands of yapa in the wild; they're really interesting palms. Maybe as a 5 gal size plant they're hard to tell apart from maurit but once bigger they're relatively easy to distinguish.

The yapa near the east coast of the Yucatan in particular tend to get smaller crowns, more deeply cut leaflets, and skinnier trunks as they age, probably as a survival mechanism in hurricanes. Young plants are robust throughout their range, I remember there used to be talk of a "greater" and "lesser" form of yapa but in the northern Yucatan most differences seem to be due at least as much to environmental conditions as genetic diversity, though I have no doubt there is some genetic diversity present. I have plenty of yapa pictures from the Yucatan and should still have my old mauritiiformis pictures from southern Tamaulipas.

The rogue population in Tamaulipas is way out of its normal range and I'm guessing washed up from the Bay of Campeche - they are less than a half mile from the Gulf. Nobody noticed them until an area near the coast was cleared for beach homes; the last time I was there (2009) the development was gated; there are probably still some in the wild around there but are not likely easy to access.

I'm very surprised anyone would find mauritiiformis hardier than yapa; nearly all accounts from Florida regard yapa as the hardier of the two, if only by a couple of degrees. Here in 2011 I had a small (c. 5') yapa in the yard unphased by the cold while large mauritiiformis in Harlingen and Laguna Vista had some slight scorching. Both are excellent for South Texas, though small mauritiiformis are very prone to rhino beetle (Strategus aloeus) attacks.

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  • 4 months later...

I took a few pictures of my S.yapa and my S. mauritiformis today. The two seem to become distinguishable at a five gallon size. Here, the S. mauritiformis is in a 15 gallon tub, and the S. yapa is in a 5 gallon tub. The yapa has a darker green hue, and an iridescent silver on the bottom. The mauritiformis also has a silver underside, although with less vibrance. The top of the leaves on the mauritiformis exhibit a yellowish green color, while at the same time having a bluish tinge in parts - this may be the result of a deficiency.

These have been fast growers for me. The yapa was purchased as a liner a little less than 18 months ago (June 2013). The mauritiformis was purchased at the same time, and was a small 5 gallon.

Yapa on the left and Mauritiformis on the right.








Edited by Sabal Steve
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I am not sure that those are the constant differencies between them. On my mauritiformis adaxial color is glossy greeen and the better it grows the whitier is the abaxial side almost like on Brahea nitida...

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This is my mauritiformis with the glossy green leaves on their adaxial side. It is exposed to full sun for the greatest part of the day. It used to have in earlier stages occasionally very silvery leaf-undersides, before it started suffering from the ruthless competition of a very agressive passiflora hybrid.


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I rarely read this forum; hence, why I missed this posting for so long.

In any event, I would like to share my experiences with growing both Sabal yapa and Sabal mauritiiformis.

I found both to be relatively cold hardy, but can't really speak to frost hardiness of the leaves.

I bought my first Sabal mauritiiformis from Dave Witt of Orlando, back in January of 2002. It was no more than a one gallon size. I pot grew it for several years, afraid to plant it out for fear it might succumb to cold. Eventually, I did plant it out, but planted it beneath the canopy of a tree, and in a relatively sheltered area.

To my knowledge, this palm has never suffered frost damage or cold damage beyond typical wintertime potassium deficiency.

I also have four Saba yapa in the ground, two of them shown below. I grew these from seed a palm friend picked up for me in Cancun, Mexico. Both species have been slow growers for me, but I attribute some of that slowness to lack of adequate sunshine.

As most Floridians know, both January and February of 2010 was very cold, duration wise. While January was bad for me, December was the worst, as I had 11 straight nights below 40 degrees. Five of those nights were below 30 degrees, and three nights below 25 degrees, with the coldest night bottoming out at 20.8 degrees in the open (where I had a digital thermometer placed). That being said, the low temperature where I had my S. mauritiiformis and my largest S. yapa was probably several degrees warmer, plus they got no frost. My other S. yapa (shown below) did get foliage damage from frost, but no bud damage. New fronds grew back normally.

On the other hand, I have about a half dozen Sabal uresana planted here and there, and none of them were damaged at all in 2010. Further, S. uresana is hands down faster than both S. yapa and S. mauritiiformis -- and I know that's not what's at issue here, just noting the difference.


Above photo: My Sabal mauritiiformis (with Corypha utan in left foreground) still showing some K deficiency on the lower most leaves tips.


Above photo: My largest Saba yapa planted in very protected area where it never gets full sun. But I've never observed frost in this area. Palm has never been hurt by cold.


Above Photo: My next to largest Sabal yapa planted in less protected area. This one did get frost damage in 2010.


Above photo: My largest Sabal uresana, which should start trunking by next year, I believe. I grew this one (and all my others) from seed. This species is bullet proof cold hardy for my climate.

Edited by Walt
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Mad about palms

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