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Northern-most *wild* palmetto in Georgia?


GeorgiaEnjoyer

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Ever since visiting Florida when I was much younger I was always enamored by the flora of what I thought was like a "tropical" forestland. Any time I took a road trip south I would keep my faced glue to the window looking for any apparent change in tree and plant life to show itself, palmettos were one of those things I always looked for. This is off the interstate I-75 in Forsyth and as far as I know is the furthest north and inland that I have seen a palmetto growing wild. I would have to drive another hour and a half to see another specimen growing by the roadside, starting in Dublin but even then you don't really see them in force until you get close to Savannah. I say wild because, while I don't know for certain that this tree came here naturally, all the evidence seems to indicate it.

It's right on a fence (which the tree has in part destroyed) perfect for a bird who just gorged himself on some palmetto fruits to perch on. There are no other palms planted for decoration in line of sight. And the whole thing is completely unpruned, as old and dead leaves are left on the tree and found lying around the base.
South bound off-ramp for Exit 185, I-75IMG_20240604_172208610.thumb.jpg.b16de6d22a0fb6a4e29f81c01a1ce986.jpg

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Nice find. Hard to say if natural, naturalized, or planted. Nearest one I'd seen was at Eisenhower Blvd in Macon at the I75 exit. One at a gas station. Not visible from the highway the pas ten years due to overgrown brush at the exit ramp.

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I remember similar drives as a child.  South of the Border was a fun place on I-95.  

You could drive 7 hours east-northeast and see the northernmost Sabal palmetto stand in North America.  You take a ferry from Southport, NC and rent a bike or golf cart to explore the island.  I've done it twice.

Screenshot 2024-07-09 at 6.38.50 PM.png

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Sabal palmettos wild range is slowly creeping north. I’m not sure if they were once native well up into the other banks but died due to the wind and cold. If anything I would think it would be people harvesting it. There could be ‘wild’ palmettos north of bald head maybe up until Carolina beach most likely in Kure beach, if you look on the side of the road on google earth you might see some. With the warming climate and the palm being widely planted up until Virginia along with Sabal minor it could reclaim its old ground and re naturalize. Trachycarpus naturalized in Switzerland and I believe some places in the American south. I would like to see pictures of “wild” Trachycarpus in the south 

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I guess you can find "wild" plants wherever they are naturalized.  I have some "wild" Trachycarpus in my back yard in Virginia but I don't count them. The ones on Bald Head are considered "native."  The island is protected from ICE vehicles and the palms there are protected in their habitat.  I think palms along the roadside are cool too and it would be nice to see the native range expand.  I'm afraid that we humans probably keep this from happening by paving over and building on much of their habitat.

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IMG_9329.thumb.png.369e4a7470217490b8f488f70b2c9d53.pngIMG_9330.thumb.png.35217532602a4845237e7330a5175205.pngThey are there a few miles north of bald head I consider them native because they aren’t that far from bald head. Like I said I think these might be the first few starting to creep north with the warming climate and such, or these could’ve blown from palmettos up the road in someones yard but they are so wide spread up until va beach they will probably naturalize

IMG_9331.jpeg

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6 hours ago, Colin1110082 said:

IMG_9329.thumb.png.369e4a7470217490b8f488f70b2c9d53.pngIMG_9330.thumb.png.35217532602a4845237e7330a5175205.pngThey are there a few miles north of bald head I consider them native because they aren’t that far from bald head. Like I said I think these might be the first few starting to creep north with the warming climate and such, or these could’ve blown from palmettos up the road in someones yard but they are so wide spread up until va beach they will probably naturalize

IMG_9331.jpeg

"blown"?

The seeds would have to be carried by birds. The wind won't carry them.

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3 hours ago, SeanK said:

"blown"?

The seeds would have to be carried by birds. The wind won't carry them.

Yes lol, your right

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19 hours ago, Colin1110082 said:

Sabal palmettos wild range is slowly creeping north. I’m not sure if they were once native well up into the other banks but died due to the wind and cold. If anything I would think it would be people harvesting it. There could be ‘wild’ palmettos north of bald head maybe up until Carolina beach most likely in Kure beach, if you look on the side of the road on google earth you might see some. With the warming climate and the palm being widely planted up until Virginia along with Sabal minor it could reclaim its old ground and re naturalize. Trachycarpus naturalized in Switzerland and I believe some places in the American south. I would like to see pictures of “wild” Trachycarpus in the south 

I’m doing research on this rn actually, there are wild, native Sabal palmetto is Kure Beach in New Hanover County, and were once native as far north as Cape Hatteras roughly until the Civil War at least. Now it is extirpated in all NC counties north of New Hanover to Dare. But It has naturalized alongside NC coastline and wherever planted ones are basically 

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Zone 8a/8b Greenville, NC 

Zone 9a/9b Bluffton, SC

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Zone 8a/8b Greenville, NC 

Zone 9a/9b Bluffton, SC

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On 7/2/2024 at 9:14 PM, GeorgiaEnjoyer said:

Ever since visiting Florida when I was much younger I was always enamored by the flora of what I thought was like a "tropical" forestland. Any time I took a road trip south I would keep my faced glue to the window looking for any apparent change in tree and plant life to show itself, palmettos were one of those things I always looked for. This is off the interstate I-75 in Forsyth and as far as I know is the furthest north and inland that I have seen a palmetto growing wild. I would have to drive another hour and a half to see another specimen growing by the roadside, starting in Dublin but even then you don't really see them in force until you get close to Savannah. I say wild because, while I don't know for certain that this tree came here naturally, all the evidence seems to indicate it.

It's right on a fence (which the tree has in part destroyed) perfect for a bird who just gorged himself on some palmetto fruits to perch on. There are no other palms planted for decoration in line of sight. And the whole thing is completely unpruned, as old and dead leaves are left on the tree and found lying around the base.
South bound off-ramp for Exit 185, I-75IMG_20240604_172208610.thumb.jpg.b16de6d22a0fb6a4e29f81c01a1ce986.jpg

I’m only familiar with coastal GA since I used to live outside of Savannah, where palmetto is native and common, but the range used to go incredibly inland a few centuries ago. This wasn’t specific to GA but also in NC/SC too 

Zone 8a/8b Greenville, NC 

Zone 9a/9b Bluffton, SC

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26 minutes ago, NC_Palms said:

I’m doing research on this rn actually, there are wild, native Sabal palmetto is Kure Beach in New Hanover County, and were once native as far north as Cape Hatteras roughly until the Civil War at least. Now it is extirpated in all NC counties north of New Hanover to Dare. But It has naturalized alongside NC coastline and wherever planted ones are basically 

As of now what would you say is the furthest north place past bald head where you could find a wild one? Kure beach? Do you think the native range will one day, in the far future reach the VA border with the warming climate and wide spread plantings? 

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7 hours ago, Colin1110082 said:

As of now what would you say is the furthest north place past bald head where you could find a wild one? Kure beach? Do you think the native range will one day, in the far future reach the VA border with the warming climate and wide spread plantings? 

Wild as in native? Probably Carolina Beach but it gets blurry since there’s a lot between Carolina and Atlantic Beach which could be either native or naturalized. 

Wild as in naturalized? Dare County, Pitt County, Beaufort and Hyde Counties. I haven’t explored anywhere north of that, but I am certain they’re already naturalizing in the VA beach area. They seem to naturalize wherever they’re planted and produce seeds, which explains why I’ve found them growing significantly inland in NC. But there are large trunking specimens growing far away from civilization in rural eastern NC which begs the question how it arrived there.

Most of the South Atlantic Coastal Plain from Southeast Va to Florida is roughly the same ecological system and nature does not follow man made borders. After years of researching this, I think Sabal palmetto had a significantly more extensive range prior to the mid 19th century that went farther north and inland. Thus if it is interacting and reproducing in various ecosystems and benefiting the ecology, and arrived by the forces of nature, I would consider it to be a native plant. But again it’s really blurry 

Im actually publishing a huge report on this soon for a grad project, so ill be able to explain this more detailed and clear, but it will explain a lot of this and what i’ve done over the last few years 

 

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Zone 8a/8b Greenville, NC 

Zone 9a/9b Bluffton, SC

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2 minutes ago, NC_Palms said:

Im actually publishing a huge report on this soon for a grad project, so ill be able to explain this more detailed and clear, but it will explain a lot of this and what i’ve done over the last few years 

That is awesome! Hope you'll share your report!

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2 minutes ago, Swolte said:

That is awesome! Hope you'll share your report!

Thank you! It’s been a several year project. I ended up leaving NC for a bit and going to the Savannah area so a lot of it went on pause, but then since I moved back and started a university biology program that allowed me to pursue this research officially, so I’ve gotten back on track and cannot wait for everyone in palmtalk community to read it : ) 

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Zone 8a/8b Greenville, NC 

Zone 9a/9b Bluffton, SC

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