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Sabal Palmetto in 7b - 30+ years from seed - is finally trunking


LeonardHolmes

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I collected seed from some Sabals at Vistana resort near Orlando around 1990 when we took out daughters to Disney World.  One has been in the ground in Williamsburg, Virginia since a few years later (after growing it out in pots).  It's in partial shade, but it has taken all of 30 years to begin to form a trunk this year.  Here are a few shots.

Not a way to quickly establish a palm, but it is rewarding to see if finally beginning to get some vertical growth.

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That is a very nice Sabal! Way to go! Sabals take a while to find their way in colder climates but once they start to trunk they take off. The nearby heat bank, from the water, and the slope draining away cold air is a plus but I suspect you already know that and that is why you planted it there. From this point on you should see faster growth. I would be proud to have that palm growing.

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Sweet! So based on that, maybe 40-50 years for my Sabals to start trunking in the PNW? Hope I’m still alive then 😀

Thats a really nice looking palmetto though, especially for Virginia. Well done! 

Zone 8b, Csb (Warm-summer Mediterranean climate). 1,940 annual sunshine hours 
Annual lows-> 19/20: -5.0C, 20/21: -5.5C, 21/22: -8.3C, 22/23: -9.4C, 23/24: 1.1C (so far!)

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Very nice Palmetto .You're in a relatively mild area in Va  so it doesn't get those extreme lows .

I have one about that size . Mine , a Tifton Hardy ,  has been in the ground 9 years and is forming a trunk too . It's starting to move quite a bit  higher than Minors near it and the trunk is fattening up .

Your palm looks more  dark green than mine , or maybe it's just the light level of the picture ?  .Mine started as a tiny PDN palm .

Will

Edited by Will Simpson
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4 hours ago, Will Simpson said:

You're in a relatively mild area in Va  so it doesn't get those extreme lows .

We hit -4 degrees F briefly during the 2018 freeze.  I lost several mature Trachycarpus during that one, but the Sabals did OK.

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Hmm. There was one planned NE of the ATL perimeter in the early 1970s. Made it through two bad winters in the 1980s (0°F & -8°F) and had 6 feet of solid trunk in 1998.

I saw a triple last week (mistaken for S.minor?) Planted in 2014 from a 10 inch pot. 7-ft tall, seeding and not quite yet at full trunk calibre.

I guess heat makes a tremendous difference.

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It's funny that when I joined PT just about two or so years ago Sabals we're really anything most folks talked about... but after the '21 Texas freeze they seem to be getting the respect they deserve.  They are truly America's palm..  I've planted 250+ on my property from various stages of growth and am looking forward to the reward you are finally getting.

Congrats, and well done.  I bet that makes people look 2-3x as they canoe past your place and spot a majestic sabal thriving. @teddytn

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Subscribe to my YouTube here  to follow along my Sabal obsession....  Quite possibly one of the biggest Sabal plantings in the US.

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/sabalking.texas

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3 hours ago, LeonardHolmes said:

We hit -4 degrees F briefly during the 2018 freeze.  I lost several mature Trachycarpus during that one, but the Sabals did OK.

I've seen statements like this or similar, countless times. Proof that palm hardiness depends on regional climate and environment.

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Thanks for the kind words.  It's been an interesting contrast for my 2 largest Sabals palmettos.  I waited over 30 years for this one to barely start trunking and waited 1.5 years for the one in the Outer Banks to look almost fully established as an adult.  I think I'm still more emotionally attached to the long-term project

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I’ve realized from watching sabals grow over the years, they’re growing a crown and then replacing those leaves with bigger ones to make the next size up crown over and over until they get to a full mature size crown at ground level, then they will start slowly moving vertically. Any thought that it may be gaining a vertical trunk before having full size fronds is false hope lol. @LeonardHolmes just excellent in all directions. 30 years of proven cold hardiness right there, thank you for sharing!!! 🙏🏻👏🏻

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Here in Southern California they grow quite a bit faster. I have one that was just a sprout and I planted it out 20 years ago . The thing is pretty big , about 10' and large trunk. Seems to tolerate our dry climate very well.

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  • 3 months later...

Here are some pics after the coldest part of the winter.  It got down to 9.9 degrees and stayed below freezing for 2 days. The palm looks thinner - easier to see through it.  There are small clear spots on the leaves, but otherwise it looks pretty good.

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I have a scientific study in front of me on the establishment of trunks in palmetto and it's not a pretty picture.   In the wild 1% trunk at 33 years, 10% at 42 years and 50% at 59 years.  Yes you read that right.  It also says that under ideal nursery conditions with intense watering and fertilizer the earliest reported is 7 years.  The theoretical fastest trunk establishment in the wild was estimated at 14 years.  In your backyard under intense care this would be less obviously. 

Edited by Allen
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YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@tntropics - 60+ In-ground 7A palms - (Sabal) minor(7 large + 27 seedling size, 3 dwarf),  brazoria(1) , birmingham(4), etonia (1) louisiana(5), palmetto (1), riverside (1),  (Trachycarpus) fortunei(7), wagnerianus(1),  Rhapidophyllum hystrix(7),  18' Mule-Butia x Syagrus(1),  Blue Butia odorata (1) +Tons of tropical plants.  Recent Yearly Lows -6F, -1F, 12F, 11F, 18F, 16F, 3F, 3F, 6F, 3F, 1F, 16F, 17F, 6F, 8F

 

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36 minutes ago, SeanK said:

I had one next to my AC drip line. 5 years after planting from a 10- inch pot. Full sun, wet soil, red clay.

Do you mean trunking? And a palmetto?  If you have pics of progress post them as I always like to look at growth examples.

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@tntropics - 60+ In-ground 7A palms - (Sabal) minor(7 large + 27 seedling size, 3 dwarf),  brazoria(1) , birmingham(4), etonia (1) louisiana(5), palmetto (1), riverside (1),  (Trachycarpus) fortunei(7), wagnerianus(1),  Rhapidophyllum hystrix(7),  18' Mule-Butia x Syagrus(1),  Blue Butia odorata (1) +Tons of tropical plants.  Recent Yearly Lows -6F, -1F, 12F, 11F, 18F, 16F, 3F, 3F, 6F, 3F, 1F, 16F, 17F, 6F, 8F

 

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2 hours ago, Allen said:

I have a scientific study in front of me on the establishment of trunks in palmetto and it's not a pretty picture.   In the wild 1% trunk at 33 years, 10% at 42 years and 50% at 59 years.  Yes you read that right.  It also says that under ideal nursery conditions with intense watering and fertilizer the earliest reported is 7 years.  The theoretical fastest trunk establishment in the wild was estimated at 14 years.  In your backyard under intense care this would be less obviously. 

that is very crazy how slow they grow

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Sabal palmetto grows very differently in shade vs. in full sun. I witnessed this in Natchez, Mississippi, where I planted them both in full, southwest-facing hot sun, and also under canopy north-facing in our courtyard. The full-sun specimens trunked very quickly, and were 25' tall in about a decade. Those in the courtyard were lucky to have six feet and no trunks after 15 years. One can see this driving through areas of north/north-central Florida where they grow in the swampy forests, and develop slowly and never seem to really break canopy. In the open south of Orlando and down into the Everglades/Big Cypress, It's a different story altogether. The drive along the Tamiami Trail provides some excellent vistas looking toward vast stands of S. palmetto, far more than you could shake a stick at...and all very, very tall, quite a spectacular scene surrounded by open, low-lying landscape. You would be hard-pressed to guess that these magnificent things were of the same species that lurks in the dark oak-and-Spanish-moss forests of north-central Florida.

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Michael Norell

Rancho Mirage, California | 33°44' N 116°25' W | 287 ft | z10a | avg Jan 43/70F | Jul 78/108F avg | Weather Station KCARANCH310

previously Big Pine Key, Florida | 24°40' N 81°21' W | 4.5 ft. | z12a | Calcareous substrate | avg annual min. approx 52F | avg Jan 65/75F | Jul 83/90 | extreme min approx 41F

previously Natchez, Mississippi | 31°33' N 91°24' W | 220 ft.| z9a | Downtown/river-adjacent | Loess substrate | avg annual min. 23F | Jan 43/61F | Jul 73/93F | extreme min 2.5F (1899); previously Los Angeles, California (multiple locations)

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6 minutes ago, mnorell said:

Sabal palmetto grows very differently in shade vs. in full sun.  The full-sun specimens trunked very quickly, and were 25' tall in about a decade. 

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this.  What size were they planted?  I mean we're talking several feet of trunk per year and trunking in just a few years(3-5?)?

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@tntropics - 60+ In-ground 7A palms - (Sabal) minor(7 large + 27 seedling size, 3 dwarf),  brazoria(1) , birmingham(4), etonia (1) louisiana(5), palmetto (1), riverside (1),  (Trachycarpus) fortunei(7), wagnerianus(1),  Rhapidophyllum hystrix(7),  18' Mule-Butia x Syagrus(1),  Blue Butia odorata (1) +Tons of tropical plants.  Recent Yearly Lows -6F, -1F, 12F, 11F, 18F, 16F, 3F, 3F, 6F, 3F, 1F, 16F, 17F, 6F, 8F

 

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6 hours ago, Allen said:

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this.  What size were they planted?  I mean we're talking several feet of trunk per year and trunking in just a few years(3-5?)?

Yup, that's exactly right...they started from one-gallon-size mail-order plants put straightaway into the ground, were trunking I guess in about 3-5 years as you say (though it's difficult to assess with boot-jacks in place) and in about 10-12 years the tops of the crowns were at about the top of the (27-foot-high) house. As they approached that height their "teenage growth spurt" started to calm down quite appreciably. They were even large before they were trunking since the crowns are quite large, but once they were trunking they grew quite quickly. I had a similar growth-rate with Sabal causiarum (though these were in much less sun, so perhaps the faster species). These were also planted using the "start small" method that I believe strongly in (largely after observing these palms, and others)...a one-to-three-gallon palm, even a seedling, if hardy enough and protected from marauders, will put on growth that just can't be matched by a field-grown or large containerized specimens that has been root-pruned, dug and dropped into a new situation. Not to say that large specimens can't get their footing and continue growth at a reasonable rate, but there may be a years-long wait as the plant works its way out of its shock and into the new surroundings. In this case maybe helped along by that magical Mississippi loess soil! But I firmly believe that sun and heat (and small initial planting size) were the ingredients that made their growth differ from the identical batch of palms I placed into the shady courtyard.

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Michael Norell

Rancho Mirage, California | 33°44' N 116°25' W | 287 ft | z10a | avg Jan 43/70F | Jul 78/108F avg | Weather Station KCARANCH310

previously Big Pine Key, Florida | 24°40' N 81°21' W | 4.5 ft. | z12a | Calcareous substrate | avg annual min. approx 52F | avg Jan 65/75F | Jul 83/90 | extreme min approx 41F

previously Natchez, Mississippi | 31°33' N 91°24' W | 220 ft.| z9a | Downtown/river-adjacent | Loess substrate | avg annual min. 23F | Jan 43/61F | Jul 73/93F | extreme min 2.5F (1899); previously Los Angeles, California (multiple locations)

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16 hours ago, mnorell said:

Sabal palmetto grows very differently in shade vs. in full sun. I witnessed this in Natchez, Mississippi, where I planted them both in full, southwest-facing hot sun, and also under canopy north-facing in our courtyard. The full-sun specimens trunked very quickly, and were 25' tall in about a decade. Those in the courtyard were lucky to have six feet and no trunks after 15 years. One can see this driving through areas of north/north-central Florida where they grow in the swampy forests, and develop slowly and never seem to really break canopy. In the open south of Orlando and down into the Everglades/Big Cypress, It's a different story altogether. The drive along the Tamiami Trail provides some excellent vistas looking toward vast stands of S. palmetto, far more than you could shake a stick at...and all very, very tall, quite a spectacular scene surrounded by open, low-lying landscape. You would be hard-pressed to guess that these magnificent things were of the same species that lurks in the dark oak-and-Spanish-moss forests of north-central Florida.

Now that you bring this up it reminds me of a place I walk when I visit relatives in Stuart Fl out on the inter coastal waterway . There is a path that is covered by sea grapes probably 150 yards from the ocean. Palmetto’s grow among the canopy of sea grapes , probably 15ft tall. I’ve been walking this trail since the late 80’s and the palmetto’s that have been growing in the shade under the sea grape canopy that appear to hardly grow after decades.
 

thank you for bringing this up. A great observation that I overlooked.
 

 

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23 hours ago, Allen said:

Do you mean trunking? And a palmetto?  If you have pics of progress post them as I always like to look at growth examples.

I actually had to chainsaw it. It was tearing into the roof. The house has an 18" to 24" overhang on the roof to help shade the attic. It was a sad day indeed.

😢

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1 hour ago, SeanK said:

I actually had to chainsaw it. It was tearing into the roof. The house has an 18" to 24" overhang on the roof to help shade the attic. It was a sad day indeed.

😢

Ouch!

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Here in Southern California , I planted a Sabal Palmetto  (1 gallon seedling ) that was gifted to me from a fellow palm collector. I planted it on my hill in full sun about 23 years ago . It is huge, about 12' tall and 6-7' of trunk.  I am just glad I did not plant it close to the house. It actually got a trunk within about 3-4 years and took off at that point. I planted a Livistona Chinensis about the same time and same size not far from the Sabal and it is only a quarter the size! Of the various palms I planted on that hill it is one of the fastest( not counting the Syagrus or Washingtonia) . It is easily keeping up with the Brahea Edulis and the Butia Bonetti. 

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I’m sure that the partial shade slowed mine down some.  We also have pretty chilly winters and they basically stop growing October through March.

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