Interest in cultivating date palms in North Florida is on the rise. Highly regarded by gardening enthusiasts, the date palm is grown as an ornamental and for its delicious fruits with the added bonus of medicinal properties.
Growing date palm in North Florida poses challenges due to the region’s moist and cooler climate with temperatures occasionally dipping below freezing. Date palms, which typically thrive in hot, arid conditions, include two notable species: True date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) renowned for its tasty fruit and the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), known for its substantial size and edible but less flavorful fruits. There is also (Phoenix sylvestris), known as the Sylvester date palm or wild date palm.
Characterized by a slow growth rate, date palms can, in certain environments, grow to towering heights of up to 80 feet. Their pinnately compound leaves, ranging from blue-green to gray-green, can stretch up to 20 feet in length, featuring leaflets of 1 to 2 feet that form a distinctive “V” shape along the rachis. Date palms possess ornamental appeal, thanks to its textured trunk, striking blue-green foliage, and vibrant orange inflorescences. However, date palms do generate some concern because of the litter created by its fallen fruits. Its wide crown offers limited shade due to its relatively sparse canopy.
To flourish, date palms require well-drained, neutral to acidic soil and an abundance of direct sunlight. A plus is their ability to thrive in confined root spaces. North Florida’s sporadic frost and cold spells necessitate protective measures for date palms during the colder months, such as covering them with frost cloth or employing mulch around the base to insulate the roots. Some palm enthusiast grows them in sheltered location but occasional freeze damage to foliage can be expected.
Gardeners in North Florida seeking a cold-hardy alternative might try the pindo palm (Butia odorata), which is an excellent choice. Although it isn’t a true date palm, its feathery fronds provide a tropical ambiance to the landscape. Other palm species adaptable to North Florida’s wintry conditions include windmill palms, needle palms, and sabal palms. These options vary in their ultimate height and visual characteristics.
While it’s possible to grow date palms in North Florida, it’s important to understand that success may not be guaranteed, and you may need to provide extra care and protection to help your trees thrive in the region’s climate.
For more information contact your local extension office or visit:
In a tranquil forest area beside a pond, within the confines of the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, stand two rare Florida Torreya trees, safely enclosed within a fenced perimeter and safeguarded by securely locked gates. As one approaches, a prominently posted sign on the fence conveys a message. “Once abundant in this area (Chattahoochee Ravines and Forests) thousands thrived until the 1950s when a disease nearly wiped them out. Small specimens were left either diseased or stunted. After decades of research, Atlanta Botanical Garden has developed a disease resistant specimen for replanting in its native habitat (Chattahoochee). This tree is a research specimen Chattahoochee, F.S.H and Atlanta Botanical Garden are partners in this effort. Enjoy the Torreya’s beauty but please DO NOT DISTURB.”
As we toured the site where the trees are planted, it was evident that members of the Chattahoochee Women’s Club worked diligently and patiently tending to these two rare trees, sparking my desire to further explore this rare beauty. In the Apalachicola drainage area of Gadsden and Liberty counties, along with southern Decatur County in Georgia, you can encounter Florida Torreya trees, which are also known as stinking cedar or gopher wood. Additionally, a group of these trees can be observed west of the Apalachicola River in Jackson County.
This evergreen tree has an upright, pyramid-like shape and features slender branches that gracefully arch downward and has unique needle-like glossy, dark green leaves. These trees can reach heights of up to 40 feet, with a canopy that spreads about 20 feet, and they are known for their notably slow growth rate.
The torreya tree, often regarded as one of the rarest conifers in North America, has witnessed a persistent decline spanning several decades, dating back to the late 1930s where the initial decline was noticeable, until the 1960s where no adult tree could be found. This decline can be attributed to various factors, including diseases, alterations in ecosystems, and other contributing factors. However, the primary cause has been identified as diseases caused by two fungal species of fusarium, specifically leading to leaf spots and stem cankers. Collaborative endeavors between various organizations, including government agencies, academic institutions, horticultural groups, and dedicated volunteers, continues to focus on conserving and safeguarding this endangered species. The future of the Florida Torreya hinges on understanding the disease-causing agent, Fusarium as well as the ongoing joint efforts of all stakeholders involved.
Identifying the Bean Leafroller (Urbanus proteus), also known as the longtail skipper, is crucial for gardeners. Here’s how to recognize them: inspect your garden for rolled leaves with irregular edges; if found, gently unroll them to reveal potential bean leafroller larvae. These larvae undergo five distinct growth stages, initially appearing yellowish with a brownish-black head.
Distribution: the bean leaf roller is commonly found in residential gardens and is widespread across Florida and other regions. It becomes a late summer nuisance pest, primarily affecting leguminous plants such as cowpeas, lima beans, peas, snap beans, and soybeans. However, it’s worth noting that this insect also inhabits other plants like wisteria, tick trefoil, butterfly pea, and hog peanut. Being able to identify and manage this pest is essential for protecting your garden’s productivity and ensuring the health of your plants.
Lifecycle: The bean leafroller undergoes a lifecycle that spans approximately 30 days. While it reproduces year-round in southern Florida, its presence in northern Florida is more sporadic until June. As the season progresses, it becomes more abundant, typically peaking in September to October. The adult bean leafroller is relatively large, boasting a wingspan of approximately 50 mm, with its distinguishing feature being the elongated hind wings, resembling a tail. The eggs, which are laid either individually or in clusters of two to six, initially appear white and gradually transition to a yellow color over time.
Inspect Your Plants: The larvae of these leafrollers are defoliators, consuming only the leaf tissue of leguminous plants. They create a distinctive shelter by cutting a small triangular portion at the leaf’s edge, folding it over, and residing within this concealed space. This behavior evolves as the larvae progress through different developmental stages including the pupal stage. Monitoring your plants for these characteristic signs of leaf damage is crucial for early detection and management of the bean leafroller, helping protect your garden’s health and productivity.
Safeguarding Your Plants: Insecticides can be quite effective for control or suppression, particularly in the later parts of the season. Additionally, employing biological control agents is a viable option. Predatory behavior has been observed in various studies that have been conducted.
They are known for their voracious feeding habits, targeting a wide range of plants, including ornamentals, fruit trees, and vegetables. I speak of no other than the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) an invasive species in the United States, originating from Japan.
Though reports have been made of Japanese beetle sightings in Florida, there is still not a known established population. However, it’s important to note that the status of Japanese beetles in Florida can change, potentially rapidly, over time. Thus, it is important to be able to identify the species’ host plants and damaged caused. Early detection, monitoring, and swift action can help minimize the potential damage caused by invasive species like Japanese beetles that could potentially have negative impacts on agricultural crops, gardens, and ornamental plants.
The adult Japanese beetle is an attractive pest that is generally metallic green, with bronze or copper-brown wing covers that do not completely cover the abdomen, revealing five patches of white hairs on each side and one pair on the last abdominal segment. These features distinguish Popillia japonica from all other similar looking beetles. In terms of shape, Japanese beetle generally have a broad oval body structure. Notably, the female beetles tend to be larger in size compared to their male counter parts.
Developmental stages usually take place under the soil after the female deposit her eggs. In most instances they complete their life cycle in one year emerging later in the summer months, however this varies based on locations.
Japanese beetles have known to have over 300 host plant species; however, some common host plants includemaples, soybean, ornamental apple species, plums, peaches, roses, blackberry, raspberry, limes, elms, grapes, and corn. Crepe myrtle and turfgrasses are also host plants.
Both adults and larvae cause plant damage. Adults feed on the foliage of host plants resulting in skeletonization of the leaves, while larvae feed on the root systems of turf and pasture species, affecting the ability of the plant to uptake nutrient and water from the soil.
If Japanese beetle populations do become established in Florida, it is generally advisable to take measures to manage the population such as physically removing them, using pheromone traps, or other integrated pest management strategies. Chemical recommendations are not currently available in Florida since this beetle is not reported as a pest problem. However, it is always advisable to contact your Local Extension office for recommendations. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also provided some useful information on the Japanese beetle in their homeowner’s handbook titled “Managing the Japanese Beetle: A Homeowners Handbook’’.
For the most current and accurate information specific to Japanese beetles in Florida management and species identification, consult your extension office. Supporting document can also be found by clicking the link below.
How often do we stop to think of the importance of pollinators to food security?
Pollination is often described as the transfer of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of a flowering plant. These transfers are made possible due to pollinator visits in exchange of pollen and nectar from the plants.
Who are our pollinators?
Main Global Pollinators
Honeybees Alfalfa leafcutter bee
Bumble bees Mason bees
Stingless bees Other leafcutter bees
How can we care for pollinators?
We can care for our pollinators by growing plants that have abundant and accessible pollen and nectar.
Choose plants with flat flowers or short to medium-length flowers tubes (corollas), and limit plants with long flower tubes such as honey suckle.
Avoid plant varieties that do not provide floral rewards (pollen), which is the essential food source for bees. (e.g., some sunflower, and lilies).
While we think of most flies as pests, garden flies, such as Allograpta obliqua species found in Florida, are excellent pollinators and insect predators. Photo by Jessica Louque, Smithers Viscient, Bugwood.org.
Many native wild bees have relatively short proboscises, or tongues, and may not be able to access nectar from flowers with long tubes; however, flowers with long floral tubes can attract other pollinators with long tongues or beaks such as butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.
Arewe creating an ecosystemaesthetically pleasing while attracting pollinators?
UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones
The planting of native wildflowers in Florida can benefit agricultural producers likewise, native pollinators and other beneficial such as parasitoids and predators.
Some of the main benefits of growing native wildflower are:
Increasing wild bee presence in the surroundings
Providing nesting and foraging sites for pollinators, butterflies, bees etc.
Increasing natural enemies of pest insects.
It is important to select mix varieties of native wildflowers when restoring habitats for our pollinators. Mix varieties will flower all year round and make available a continuous supply of nectar and pollen. If possible, use wildflower seeds that are produced in the state that you want to carry out pollinator restoration. It is highly likely that one will experience better growth from locally produced seeds because they will adapt better to regional growing conditions and the climate. For optimum flowering and high production of floral rewards such as pollen and nectar, place wildflowers in areas free of pesticides and soil disturbance.
Most bee species are solitary, and 70% of these solitary bees’ nest in the ground. A wildflower area of refuge can fulfill the shelter resource needs of these bees since that area will not undergo regular tilling, thus minimizing nest disturbance.