This seashore palm enjoys the good life at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden.
The seashore palm may be the palm family's answer to "pop art." The leaves of the seashore palm emerge right out of the ground from a subterranean trunk that is rarely visible, and grow in a swirling pattern, spreading out on different and seemingly random planes. There are 6-15 bright green to silvery green pinnately compound (feather-like) leaves which range from 2-6 ft (0.6-1.8 m) long, with each leaflet about 2 ft (0.6 m) long. The seashore palm is a small palm, getting only about 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. The spiky flower stalks have both male and female flowers, so one plant can produce seeds by itself. The female flowers (and the fruits that follow) are borne in distinct spirals, adding to the unique growth pattern of this interesting palm. The fruits are yellowish green and shaped like small coconuts, about 1 in (2.5 cm) long and a half inch in diameter.
The seashore palm is endemic to the Atlantic Coast of Brazil, where it grows in coastal strand, just above the high tide mark. Seashore palm is widely cultivated as an ornamental throughout South America.
In its native environment, the seashore palm is highly tolerant of poor soils that have good drainage. Considered a slow grower when it is young, the seashore palm responds very well to fertilizer and water.
Light: The seashore palm requires moderate to full sunlight. Moisture: The seashore palm thrives in soils that are thoroughly moist and have excellent drainage. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Mature and established plants have been reported by palm enthusiasts to tolerate temperatures down to 24ºF (-4.4ºC). A number of gardeners are now successfully growing the seashore palm in USDA Zone 9. Seashore palms grown in Zone 9 may require protection during cold spells. Propagation: By seeds. The optimal germination conditions for seashore palm seeds include prolonged exposure to high temperatures from 90-100ºF (32-37.8ºC) and high humidity. Keep the seed moist at all times.
The seashore palm is undoubtedly one of the best palms for beach and coastal situations in subtropical and tropical settings. The seashore palm may be used as a beach screen and is very tolerant of extreme coastal and beach exposure, and salt spray. Seashore palm can be planted just above the high tide mark.
The seashore palm is cultivated extensively in South America for the edible fruits which are eaten fresh or made into a drink. The leaves are used to make baskets and other woven objects.
The generic name of the seashore palm, Allogoptera, comes from the Greek words allage, meaning change, and pteron, meaning wing, and refers to the swirled, changing pattern of the feathery leaves. The species name, arenaria comes from the Latin, for sandy or growing in sandy sites.