128 Acoelorrhaphe wrightiiCommon Names: paurotis palm, Everglades palm, silver saw palm Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
This attractive clumping palm punctuates the flat horizon of the Everglades across South Florida. The Everglades palm can be seen growing in great mounds that erupt from the edges of the small islands that dot this "river of grass". Also know as paurotis palm, it makes a beautiful and interesting landscape specimen.
The palmate leaves are light green with silvery undersides and grow 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) in diameter. They are deeply divided into 1 in (2.5 cm) segments and are held on thin 3 ft (0.9 m) leafstems. Rows of sharp orange teeth are arranged along the edges and inspire another of the plant's common names, the silver saw palm.
About 25 leaves are arranged into crowns that sit above thin stems that are only 3-4 in (7.6-10.2 cm) in diameter and are covered with loose brown fiber. These slender stems can grow to 30 ft (9.1 m) high and lean away from one another creating attractive informal clusters. These can become a very dense tangle of foliage if suckers are not routinely trimmed. Paurotis palm blooms in late spring with white flowers arranged on 4 ft (1.2 m) inflorescences that extend past the leaves. The small fruits are 1/2 in (1.3 cm) in diameter.
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii, the paurotis palm, is native to the southern tip of Florida and the Everglades. Also found in the West Indies, Cuba and parts of Central America. Now a popular landscape item in all nearly frost-free climates.
CultureThe is one of the few palms that is tolerant of standing water. I think it looks best with dead leaves removed. May suffer "frizzletop", a manganese deficiency so fertilize twice a year with slow release fertilizer that contains micro-nutrients to prevent unsightliness. Light: Prefers full sunlight but will tolerate some shade. Moisture: Likes moisture (even wet feet) but will tolerate drought! Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Is tolerant of frosts down to the mid 20's Farenheit. Propagation: By seeds that take about 2 to 3 months to germinate if kept warm. Also by divisions of clumps (get out your picks, axes and other tools of destruction because you're in for a battle!)
Well trimmed specimens look great in entryways - especially impressive when floodlit at night (white bulbs only please, red or blue will make your house look like the Flamingo Motor Court!) Clumps look great occupying highway median and as accents in an expanse of lawn. Everglades palm is fond of water so plant it at lakeside where it will flourish and when reflected in the water your viewing enjoyment is doubled. If provided adequate moisture, this palm can be used to form screens or even impenetrable barriers as the clumps mature and merge together. This makes a very tropical alternative to a hedge of shrubs.
I like to anthropomorphize plants for no particular reason. I associate royal palms (Roystonea regia) with country club guys in tuxedos and Washingtonia palms with businessmen in three piece suites, but the paurotis palm is partying surfers in tank top, cutoffs and sandals. I enjoy this palm whenever I see it and depending on its situation, each plant (clump) develops a unique personality.
Small specimens are inexpensive and available at home and garden centers in pots wherever they are hardy. Their versatility and informal beauty make paurotis palm an appreciated addition however they are used. Unlike many, this palm is easy to grow, tough and durable.
I made a "mercy purchase" of what I thought was a saw palmetto several years ago and planted it in a dry sandy place. It eventually grew some undamaged leaves and I recognized it as a paurotis. This was about the same time that one of the puppies recognized it as a restroom. It recovered as the puppy grew up. Shortly after we had a severe winter in Tallahassee with the temps dipping to 15 degrees F (we are 100 miles north of its range). It defoliated, but in just a few weeks it sprouted a new leaf and was back in business.
I decided to reward it for its perseverance by moving it to the edge of the pond. It grew a few more leaves and was starting to actually be attractive. And then the rains came, lots of rain and the pond level rose. The poor guy spent the next seven months under water. Now we are in a drought and the pond has receded and he sits high and dry. As I start to write this profile I notice that he's back! Down from 7 stems to 1 but he actually has two leaves and one is normal! So I'm trying to think of a way to reward him again. At first I thought a cup of 8-8-8 but, what the heck, maybe I'll make the effort to transplant him to a better life at a friends house in Orlando! [Update 2004: I selfishly didn't make the effort. Winter came. It died. Amen.
This palm will eventually form a large clump. Use a lawnmower to eliminate suckers while they are small.
Jack Scheper 06/21/98; updated 5/20/04