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Origin and Habitat: United States (Florida), Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic. Haiti), Navassa, Mexico (Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula), and Dominica.
Altitude: It is found at low altitude near the sea.
Habitat: It grows on well-drained, sandy, or limestone soils in hot regions with erratic rainfall.
Pseudophoenix sargentii H.Wendl. ex Sarg.
Bot. Gaz. 11: 314 (1886)
- Pseudophoenix sargentii H.Wendl. ex Sarg.
- Chamaephoenix sargentii (H.Wendl. ex Sarg.) Curtiss
- Cyclospathe northropii O.F.Cook
- Pseudophoenix gracilis Ekman ex Burret
- Pseudophoenix linearis O.F.Cook
- Pseudophoenix sargentii var. navassana (Ekman ex Burret) Read
- Pseudophoenix navassana Ekman ex Burret
- Pseudophoenix sargentii subs. saonae (O.F.Cook) Read
- Pseudophoenix saonae O.F.Cook
ENGLISH: Sargent’s Cherry Palm, Cherry Palm, Buccaneer Palm Tree, Buccaneer palm
CHINESE (中文): Ying tao ye zi
SPANISH (Español): Kuká (Mexico), Catey (Dominican Republic), Casei (Dominican Republic), Chaicha (Dominican Republic), Chacha (Dominican Republic), Cacheo (Dominican Republic), Palma de guinea (Cuba)
Description: Pseudophoenix sargentii is known for it's, ornamentally ringed and swollen trunk and cherry-like fruit, and also for being one of the slowest growing palms.
Stem: Solitary, columnar, often irregularly formed or slightly swollen (belly-shaped), 4-8 m tall and to 30 cm diameter, smooth, light powdery grey to dark grey on the older parts, ringed with closely spaced conspicuous scars of shed fronds. It has no dead leaf bases on mature specimens.
Crownshaft: The trunk has a short, slightly bulging and wide crownshaft 30-60 cm tall waxy, and bluish to silvery green on younger palms and dark yellow green on older specimens.
Crown: Solitary; with 8-12 fronds, canopy spread 2,5-3,9 metres. The juvenile palm produces fronds in a single plane until the palm grows a trunk, at which time the palm forms a radius around the bud. In its juvenile stage, each new frond is significantly larger than the previous one.
Leaves (fronds): Up to 1,2-2,70 m long, pinnately compound, feathery. Petiole 20-50 cm long. Leaflets up to 50 cm long and 5 cm wide, acute, single-fold, entire, dark yellow green above and silvery underneath with brown scales on lower surface.
Inflorescences: Infrafoliar rather than beneath the shaft, as with most crown-shafted palms, branched up to 5 orders, either erect or arching and bee-attracting.
Flowers: Stalked small, numerous, greenish-yellow, monoecious, mostly bisexual or with separate male and female flowers, calyx 3-lobed; petals 3, valvate, much longer than calyx, basally connate; stamens 6, connate basally, anthers, elongate.
Blooming season: Flowering occurs year round with a peak in late summer
Fruit: Globose, berry-like or 2-3-lobed, 1,2-1,7 cm diameter, 1-seeded, green that turn red when ripe. Stigmatic remains near base; epicarp smooth, mesocarp fleshy, lacking fibres, endocarp hard, smooth.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Pseudophoenix sargentii group
- Pseudophoenix sargentii H.Wendl. ex Sarg.: (subsp. sargentii) Has 0,7-1,2 m long inflorescences. Distribution: Florida, Mexico, and Belize
- Pseudophoenix sargentii var. navassana (Ekman ex Burret) Read: Has white or silvery leaves on lower surface and fruits more than 1,5 cm diameter. Distribution: Navassa Island (off the western peninsula of Haiti)
- Pseudophoenix sargentii subs. saonae (O.F.Cook) Read: (var. saonae) Has 0,9-1,7 m long inflorescences, leaves gray-green on lower sur-face and fruits less than 1.5 cm diameter. Distribution: the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and Cuba.
Bibliography: Major references
1) Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal “Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas” Princeton University Press, 01/giu/1997 Page 73
2) Klaus Kubitzki “Flowering Plants. Monocotyledons: Alismatanae and Commelinanae (except Gramineae)” Springer, 01/ott/1998. Page 348-349
3) Daniel F. Austin, P. Narodny Honychurch “Florida Ethnobotany” CRC Press, 2004. Page 929-930
4) Little, Elbert, Woodbury, Roy and Wadsworth, Frank. “Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands” 1974. USDA,
5) Washington, D.C.
6) Meerow, Alan. “Betrock’s Landscape Palms” 2006. Betrock Information Systems, Inc. Hollywood, Florida
7) Riffle, Robert Lee and Craft, Paul, 2003, “An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms” Timber Press.
8) 8) Stephen H. Brown, Kim Cooprider, Lee County Extension, “Pseudophoenix sargentii, Buccaneer palm...” http://lee.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/GardenPubsAZ/Buccaneer_palm.pdf (Accessed on 19 Jan. 2013)
Cultivation and Propagation: Pseudophoenix sargentii is an excellent easy to grow palm sought after by collectors. It unique unique shape and sculptural form together with its small canopy, slow growth and small stature make it suitable for a smaller landscape, or as a large interior potted plant.
Growth Rate: Extremely slow it only grow 1 or 2 new frond per year. However in with very favourable growing conditions transplanted juvenile palms may grow about 25 to 50 cm a year
Soil requirements: It has a fibrous root system and prefers deep, fertile, alkaline soils with a good organic content, but thrives on wide range of tropical soils, like coastal marine alluvial clays, soils of volcanic origin, sands as long as they are well drained.
Watering: It prefers adequate moisture to look its best. This palm a will tolerate occasional dryness if not prolonged. Don't let sit in water. Indoor, potted palms should not be over-watered. They may contract the fungus Phytophthora, if over-watered.
Light: Prefers broken shade. It can take full sun as it matures if provided adequate water during dry periods. If home-grown, give some sun as with most tropical palms.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements three times a year if not grown in rich soil.
Salt tolerance: It is one of the most salt-tolerant palms. It is very aerosol salt tolerant and can tolerate occasional salt water inundation too.
Hardiness: This palm is tender, hates prolonged cool and is suited for tropical or subtropical climates, it is killed at 0°C or colder for any appreciable length of time, but may survive very light frosts even if it end up getting nearly defoliated each winter. (USDA Zones 10a-12b) Any temps below 4° C degrees call for protection for this palm. Seedling growth arrests below 15°C.
Wind hardiness: It is very tolerant and even survives to strong hurricane wind with minimal damages, but will grow better with slow wind.
Maintenance: Easy. It has a self cleaning trunk and adult plant don’t needs any pruning of old leaves. On the other hand dead and dying fronds on younger palms hang on tenaciously to the trunk and may need to be pruned away.
Garden uses: It is an excellent landscaping palm when set out on the lawn as a specimen, especially for small gardens where other palms will grow out of scale. Mass plantings are common at median strips and roundabouts in tropical towns. Plant bottle palms in containers and feature it in a prominent spot on the patio.
Diseases & Pests: None noted, protect from cold.
Human hazards: None.
Propagation: The fresh seeds take 1 to 6 months to germinate. Clean outer pulp and crack outer shell and let them dry for 5 to 7 days. After which, soak them in water for two days. Soaked seeds are then planted no deeper than 1 cm in porous (e.g. perlite) soil and kept warm and moist. Patience in germinating and growing this palm is well worth the effort. Slow but healthy so far as seedlings. The seeds are long lived for palms, germinating after as much as two years in storage. Often the seeds germinate naturally on the ground beneath the mother palm.
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