A mature Sabal mexicana at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden.
This stately, robust palm grows up to 50 ft (15 m) tall with a solitary trunk, 8-32 in (20-81 cm) in diameter. The spread of a mature Texas palm may range from 8 ft (2.4 m) to 25 ft (7.6 m). The gray trunk has closely-spaced annular rings. Usually part of the trunk remains covered with old leaf stem "boots", that often split at their base. These persistent boots form a characteristic crosshatch pattern on the trunk. The petioles (stems) of the Texas palm are smooth and completely thornless and may grow up to 15 ft (4.6 m) in length. Texas palm has 10-25 fan-shaped leaves ranging in color from deep emerald green, for palms in shade to part shade, and varying to lighter green in color as leaves receive more sunlight. Each leave has 80-115 leaflets with threads along the margins of the leaflets. The leaves of the Texas palm have a prominent and strongly downward arching costa (leaf midrib) which gives the leaves a folded three-dimensional effect. Texas palm may flower when very young, often blooming when the trunk is very small or nonexistent. The Texas palm produces an inflorescence, branching as long as the leaves, having small white flowers. Male and female flowers are produced on the same plant. White flowers produce round-oval fruit that are black when ripe. The Texas Palm can be separated and identified from other palmate-leafed palms by its long, smooth, nonthorny petioles (stems) and long, downward arching costa (leaf midrib).
The Texas palm is native to the southern part of Texas, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The natural habitat of the Texas palm is the rich soil of coastal bottom lands.
Texas palms tolerate drought and adapt to a wide variety of soils including those that are neutral, acidic, clayey, wet and slightly alkaline. Texas palms thrive in a humid atmosphere in rich loamy, moist and well-drained soils. Texas palms are traditionally slow growers, however regular fertilization with palm grade fertilizer promotes maximum growth. A balanced slow release palm fertilizer with minor elements, e.g., an 18-18-18, may be used during the growing season. Potassium nutritional deficiencies can develop on older leaves and may show up as translucent yellow or orange necrotic spotting. Mineral supplements should be administered in appropriate recommended amounts to prevent or treat such deficiencies. Texas palm is resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
Light: Texas palm thrives in partial shade, partial sun or full sun. Moisture: The Texas palm is drought resistant when established, but grows faster and looks better when given adequate moisture. Texas palm tolerates moist, wet locations and occasional flooding.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Mature and established Texas palms can tolerate occasional temperatures down to 12ºF (-11ºC), with minor or no leaf damage. More cold hardy data on the Texas palm is expected as its cultivation becomes more widespread. Some palm enthusiasts are reporting success with growing Texas palm in USDA Zone 7b. Propagation: Texas palm may be propagated by seeds. Fresh, ripe seeds have been reported to have a 60% germination rate after four weeks of planting. Germination of fresh seed usually takes place in two weeks to four months at 75ºF (24ºC). Seeds seem to have maximum viability if germinated within 16 weeks after the fruit matures. Germinating seeds should be protected because Texas palm seeds are a particular favorite of many birds and squirrels. Germinating seeds may form a long single root some time before forming a shoot.
A decade may pass before a young Texas palm like this one begins to form a trunk but they may begin blooming at this age or sooner.
Use the Texas palm for formal groupings, as a lawn tree, in large scale plantings and as that special accent tree. Texas palm is best utilized in medium to large yards as the palm may grow 50 ft (15 m) tall and 25 ft (7.6 m) in diameter. Texas palm may be used in a variety of locations as it is tolerant of many soils, wind, drought, and salt.
A very robust, stately and hardy palm, the Texas palm is now starting to receive attention from growers and enthusiasts. Once abundant in Texas, the Texas palm habitat is threatened. The Texas palm habitat has diminished from approximately 40,000 acres in 1925 to its present Texas natural habitat of 32 acres. Texas palm is utilized for thatching, making furniture, fans, hat making, and its rot resistant trunks are used as fence posts and for pilings in wharfs and piers. The Texas palm fruit is edible and called micharo. The Texas palm is one of only two palms that are native to Texas, the other being the much smaller dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor).