I was thinking about Southern trees again today, I realized I really don’t know the difference between a palmetto tree and a palm tree.
So I Googled it—Only one answer was definitive:
“The palmetto tree has an “etto” at the end and the palm doesn’t.”
With enthusiasm I dropped a quick email to my new Urban Forester, Danny Burbage, tree maintenance specialist at The City of Charleston, South Carolina.
Danny’s Answer: “Palmettos are one variety of over two thousand palm varieties throughout the world. There are 5 species of palm native to SC; Sabal palmetto (in the photos herewith), Sabal minor, Pindo palm, Saw palm and Needle palm.”
Please I also asked: “Why do palm trees sometimes grow with a skinny, weak looking trunk segment low on the trunk?“
Danny’s answer: “When a palmetto exhibits the “skinny” spot, that indicates that it was a bad growing year(s) at that period in the palmetto’s life. It could have been caused by drought, excessive rain, etc.
Danny recommends two excellent websites on the subject of palms: www.palmtreesltd.com (a local company that specializes in palms) and the University of Florida web site http://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/palms/
While U of FL offers a definitive Identification Chart, Palm Trees Ltd. offers a descriptive illustrated list of 15 recommended varieties of palms/palmettos for landscaping (The specimens described on Palm Trees Ltd website are listed below):
—Canary Island Date Palm
—Cocus or Pindo Palm
—Mexican Fan Palm
—Palmetto (Cabbage) Palm
—Ribbon Fan Palm or
(Weeping Cabbage Palm)
— Windmill Palm
—Dwarf Palmetto (Blue Stem)
— Mediterranean or
(European Fan) Palm
— Needle Palm
—Saw Palmetto (Scrub Palm)
—Hardy Bamboo Palm.
—Contie or Indian bread root ,
Wild sago or Florida Arrowroot
—Dioon edule or virgin’s palm
—Emperor Sago (Prince Sago)
—King Sago Palm