Florida’s native palm trees are one of two types—a fan palm, in which the leaves all radiate from a common point; or a feather palm, with the leaflets on the long leaves situated along a central stalk. Among the species of palm trees in Florida is the cabbage palmetto, a tree designated as the state tree by the legislature in 1953. To identify the many different palm trees growing in Florida, you must know where they exist, how large they can be and concentrate on detailed aspects of these trees.
Study the range maps in field guides associated with the different Florida palm trees to learn if they exist where you live in the Sunshine State. The cabbage palmetto, for example, grows everywhere in Florida except for the very southernmost tip of the peninsula, while the Florida Royalpalm grows native in only the southwestern portion of the state.
Look at a palm tree and estimate its height. Variations in the heights of these trees can lead you to identify one correctly. Of the native types, the tallest is the Florida Royalpalm, which can be as high as 100 feet. Others, like the buccaneer palm, rarely get taller than 25 feet high. The cabbage palmetto sometimes attains a height of 80 feet.
Examine the leaves of Florida’s palm trees. Look for such features as their length, color and arrangement on the tree. Florida thatchpalm, as a case in point, has leaves that are almost round, with the individual leaflets arranged like the spokes of a wheel on a stem that is flat and can be as long as 4 feet. The entire fan-shaped leaf is from 4 to 5 feet wide, with a gleaming green color on top and a much paler shade of green below.
Observe the flowers and the fruits on Florida’s palm trees. Ascertain their color and size to identify individual species. For instance, a palm tree with small green flowers growing in clusters on drooping branches as long as 6 feet is a Paurotis-palm, a species of the southwestern tip of Florida. Its fruit will help you recognize it, as it is a third of an inch wide, starting out as red-orange before ripening to a black color.
Watch for the features of non-native introduced palm tree species in Florida that will help you identify them. Look for such things as the foot-long rounded coconuts that grow high in the coconut palm or the clusters of 3-inch long dates in a date palm.