The Everglades palm in your backyard
By Ralph E. Mitchell
Florida is home to several native palms of interest including the paurotis palm aka Everglades palm and/or silver saw palm. Multiple canes emerge to make a dramatic landscape feature adorned with fan-like fronds atop spiny stems. Abundant in south Florida and on into Central America and the West Indies, the paurotis palm makes a nice specimen plant when managed properly.
The paurotis palm can grow up to thirty feet tall with a clump width of about twenty feet. The clump is made up of numerous stems with light-green, fan-shaped fronds up to three feet long. As mentioned before, the stems are armed with spines so be careful. Each mature stem will flower in the spring and produce small fruit about one-quarter of an inch in diameter that start out green, change to orange and then to black when ripe. This palm is very slow growing, so exercise patience as it develops, but also allow for the appropriate amount of space as the clump develops. Also, routine pruning of excess suckers will allow a more open clump with a better display of individual stems.
Medium in drought tolerance, the paurotis will grow quicker in moist soils and can even handle some occasional wet soils. The paurotis grows best in full sun, but will tolerate some light shade. Useful as a specimen or even a future informal screen, patience will reward you with an attractive tropical landscape feature.
Proper nutrition is essential for the paurotis palm as it can suffer from several nutritional deficiencies. As mentioned in other articles, we would recommend the following for all palms : a granular fertilizer – 8-2-12-4 (or 8-0-12-4) applied in November, February and May as per label directions. In August use a 0-0-16-6, again as per label directions. In high pH soils, which can be found in Charlotte County, you may see paurotis palms with manganese deficiency characterized by yellowing new leaves and more typically withered and curled tips classically called “frizzletop”. A severe manganese deficiency can actually kill the palm. Potassium deficiency is also common and appears as dead black areas as well as yellow-orange spotting on the older leaves. Iron deficiencies may also be noticed when fronds take on a pale yellow-green coloration. All of these deficiencies will be prevented by using the proper fertilizer recommended above. Otherwise, severe deficiencies can be treated with the proper nutrient.
The paurotis palm is listed as a Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ plant worthy of a place in your landscape. They do grow slow, but are a great native palm suitable for our area. For more information on all types of palms, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.
Broschat, B. K. (2014) Acoelorrhaphe wrightii: Paurotis Palm. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Scheper, J. (2004) . Acoelorrhaphe wrightii . Floridata.com, Tallahassee, Fl.
Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. (2006) Acoelorrhaphe wrightii: Paurotis Palm. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Photos by Tom Becker