Q: My friend just purchased a Dioon palm. It looks like a sago palm to me. What is the difference?
A: The Dioon edule is a cycad similar to its cousin the sago palm. Dioon edule is also known as the Chestnut Dioon or Virgin palm. Its origin is Mexico. In its homeland, Dioon is accustom to harsh, dry environments and shallow, sandy soils. It is considered a good Florida Friendly Landscape (FFL) plant as it requires little irrigation. Typically it grows up to 8 feet tall and about five feet wide. It does look similar to the sago palm but its leaves are more upright form and each leaflet is flat. The leaves are generally produced in the late summer or early fall and are initially soft and feathery – they later harden and become sharp along the edges. Dioon produces no flowers but instead has a single cone in the center of the plant. This plant is being watched closely because most of its normal habitat is being threatened. In some areas, it is considered endangered. We have added it to the demonstration garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex. The purpose of adding the Chestnut Dioon to our demonstration garden is to get it established then determine if the plant might be a good specimen for our area.