Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Palmetto Praise

Palmettos are smallish ground hugging palms. They don't shoot for the stars like their taller cousins, the sabal palms. Instead, a palmetto prefers to creep along the ground with a mostly horizontal trunk. They're really called "Saw Palmettos" and if you ever pick your way through a patch of them wearing shorts, you'll understand why. Each frond has a stem lined with teeth designed to scratch legs and arms. They work pretty darn good.

Lately, with the focus on xeriscaping, palmettos have moved from "thing to be bulldozed into oblivion" to "hot landscape item". They've even bred some "improved" varieties. They are a little picky about transplanting, but tough ... (indestructible?) once established.

My Mom swears that the reason I was born at 10 pounds, 1 ounce is that she grubbed palmettos out of their homestead while she was pregnant with me. All her work transferred into prenatal exercise for developing FC. That's the theory anyway.

So perhaps I like palmettos for reasons older than me.

If I needed reasons to like palmettos, I could make a long list:
Habitat for the smallish clan ... lizards,snakes, toads, bugs, rabbits, 'dillos, tiger salamanders, etc.
Food plant for deer, squirrel, feral hogs.
Pollen source for insects, especially honey bees.
Soil builder ... the constant production and breakdown of fronds provides rich black soil in the palmetto patch.
Beauty ... especially in a shady spot where they reach up just a few feet for some light.
Fire toughness ... bring it on, palmettos can survive almost any natural fire.
Possible medicinal uses ... but as unsubstantiated "supplements" mostly.
Care free landscape plant.
Great source of thatch for blinds or little kid forts.
Source of excellent hot dog roasting sticks.
The sound of rain on their fronds.

I guess you could say, I'm a fan.


Hurricane Teen said...

Only FC could write so poetically about the palmetto. And I have you beat by 9 ounces...I don't know what my mama was doing, but she wasn't messing with palmettos!

Rurality said...

Don't these things have some pretty bodacious roots? I might be thinking about something else. It's been so long since I've been near the coast!

jojo said...

I like them too for all the same reasons you mention.

you forgot one: a place for chickens to lay their eggs and you can't get to them...:)

I have 2 groupings in the yard. One of which the leaves on the frond started getting a bit black. Know what that is from?

vicki said...

Wait. I thought that was where the palmetto bugs came from...Hey! Guess who has half a dozen 4-5 inch coonties!? Pictures later today. The xeriscaping has flourished! After a somewhat hot and furry flight, all is well here in Florida. Lord, I love this place. Slept like a baby with no sirens, no helicopters, no neigbor's security lights shining in my eyes. It's heaven. Humid heaven to be sure, but heaven.

kevin said...

So, you're saying you're frond of them?

SophieMae said...

I repeat, I LOVE palmettos! Growing up in what is now referred to as the Tampa Bay area, we had more scrub palmettos. Much easier to whittle for hot dogs. I miss those. They also make really nice fans if you can find a flunky to wave one at you. ;)

Sharon said...

"Frond of them", LOL! That's my laugh for today. And I agree, they make me think of palmetto bugs. :) Lovely pic though, with the sun shining through...

robin andrea said...

Lovely ode to the palmetto. A beautiful palm. Hey, I weighed half of what you did at birth, so did my twin brother. The two of us were ten pounds together. Imagine if my mother had grubbed palmettos. Oy.

Ava said...

All right ... you've convinced me!!!!

kathy a. said...

south carolina is the palmetto state, however! it's a good plant -- much different from the tall, non-native palms that dotted los angeles when i was growing up.

Alan said...

Source of excellent hot dog roasting sticks.
The sound of rain on their fronds.

OK, you finally got down to the real reasons. {laughing}

.....Alan (they're good for roasting marshmallows too).

Laura said...

Um, you forgot the rattlesnakes!!

They like to nest underneath them, especially in the winter.

I'm trying to remember which type of turtle it was that would burrow a big hole underneath the palmettos up at our land in N.Fla. A gopher tortoise, maybe?
Anyway, hub would find rattlesnakes in the holes from time to time and it always gave me the creeps. I was afraid our dogs would stick their big heads in the hole, *shudder*.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I hear they'll also run to the store for you when your car breaks down.

Wren said...

How come Florida got all the good plants?

ImagineMel said...

horsetail and made me LOL!! :)

Floridacracker said...

Dang boy!
My son has us bot beat ... over 11 pounds. I was tempted to have him mounted.

I believe you are thinking of coontie which looks frondy and has a huge storage root.

My chickens haven't used them yet, but I can see what you mean.
I'm not sure about that black.

"Palmetto bugs" are oriental cockroaches ... the chamber of commerce spreads that P'bug name... sounds better.
Hooray for your coontie! Glad you made it to paradise!

LOL! You win! Perfect, why the hell didn't I think of that this morning?

There's a shortage of flunkies around here.Excellent hotdog roasters.

Kevin has been funny since first grade at Crookshank Elementary.

Whoa, you were a tiny thing! Mom says I was eating mashed potatoes a few days after birth.

Mission accomplished.

Kathy A,
Yes, beautiful SC is the palmetto state. That's when I know I'm back in the south whenever I'm traveling home ... seeing those palmettos is like a welcome home sign.

Honest mistake, I don't like marshmallows!

Just another reason to like them.

I like the sound of that!

Me too.

Floridacracker said...

Oops! Left you out up there.
I didn't forget snakes, check my list.
I just didn't name any particular serpenty characters.
The burrow should have been a gopher tortoise at your NFL house. Good point about dogs. I don't let my dogs go through the palmettos.

Deb said...

11 pounds? Poor Mrs. FC! Mine were all 7ish, perfect birthing size. Ha ha!

Hurricane Teen said...

FC...I usually refrain from posting two comments on one post, but I wanted to tell you how hysterically I laughed upon reading "I was tempted to have him mounted." You're truly a Minorcan Cracker.

Floridacracker said...

On just that one, she took the C-section route at the recommendation of the Doc.
That was weird. "You will have a baby at 8:30 am on the 20th, mark your calendar."
None of that sudden, "IT'S TIME!!!" rushing to the hospital stuff.

Truly I am.

Danielle Blogging for Balance said...

i just absolutely love learning about my neck of the woods with the added bonus of your wonderful sense of humor ;) We are thinking of xeriscaping our front yard - it is just costing too much to maintain - time and money. We had to do it in's on the list ;)

Floridacracker said...

Hooray! Xeriscaping is so good for Florida. Thank you!