A tropical climate, endless miles of pristine beaches, unique flora and fauna, and a vibrant culture; southern Florida is one of the most beloved locations in the United States. Fort Meyers, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Keys; there are so many beautiful locations in the southern stretches of Florida. Whether you already live there or you’re planning on moving to The Sunshine State, there’s no doubt that you want the exterior of your home to look its best.
Landscaping has a direct impact on the overall aesthetic appeal of your abode, and trees are a crucial component of any landscape. Not only do they offer visual interest, but they also welcome wildlife (the countless species of colorful birds and butterflies, and unique mammals, for example). Plus, trees help to reduce soil erosion, which is extremely important in south Florida, as extreme weather, such as heavy rains, strong winds, tropical storms, and hurricanes, aren’t unusual in this part of the country.
When you’re choosing trees to plant in your yard, choosing native species is in your best interest – and in the best interest of the ecosystem, too. Since they’re naturally acclimated to the conditions of the region, it’s more likely that your trees will flourish (and your landscaping will look a lot more appealing) when you plant species that are native to the south Florida as opposed to species that aren’t. Plus, planting native plants will help to limit the risk that a potentially invasive, non-native species will be introduced to the native environment, as a lot of the invasive plants that now grow naturally in southern Florida were introduced to the region as landscaping. The repeated introduction of non-native plants in residential landscapes will most certainly lead to future invasive species in the future, which could be extremely detrimental to the ecosystem.
What Species of Palm Trees Are native to Southern Florida?
When most people envision trees in southern Florida, palms are usually the first things that come to mind, and understandably, as the tropical weather (warm year-round temperatures and high humidity levels) create the perfect growing environment for the palm trees. There are several different varieties of palm trees that are native to and grow throughout The Sunshine State. Some are tall and majestic, and some are small, dwarf varieties. Since Florida has diverse growing zones, however, selecting palm trees for your landscape that are native to the southern parts of the state is crucial. Some of the palm trees that grow in Florida are cold-hardy and can tolerate chillier temperatures and even a touch of frost from time to time; but, other palm trees that are native to state will only grow in the southern regions, where the weather is warm and humid all year long.
The USDA growing zones in Florida are 8 through 11, with the southern parts of the state falling in zones 10 (Miami) and 11 (the Keys). Therefore, when you’re selecting palm trees for your landscape, you can select any of the species that are native to the state. There are a several different species of palm trees that are native to Florida. These include:
- Dwarf palmetto. The oversized, fan-like leaves, the smooth branches, and the short, stout trunk give the dwarf palmetto palm tree a unique look. Typically, it grows no taller than 3 feet.
- Needle palm. This palm looks more like a shrub than a tree. The trunk is thick and the fan-shaped fronds gather to create what looks like a crown on the top of the tree. Needle palms usually grow no taller than 4 feet.
- Saw palmetto. Spiky branches, fan-shaped leaves, and whitish-yellow flowers are the distinguishing features of the saw palmetto. The height (up to 10 feet) also makes this native Florida palm stand out.
- Scrub palmetto. Again, this palm features fronds that are fan-shaped and they grow on the end of a single thin stem. It only grows in Florida and can reach a height of around 6.5 feet.
- Keys thatch. Also referred to as “brittle thatch”, this palm tree features fan-shaped leaves that grow from a long, solitary stem. The leaves feature long, slender leaflets that reach up to 2.5 feet long and are either greenish-blue or greenish-yellow in color. They vary widely in height, with some standing just 3 feet, while others can reach a majestic 36 feet.
- Florida thatch. With a thin trunk and palmate leaves that grow in a grown-shape, Florida thatch can reach up to 20 feet tall.
- Florida silver. A smooth, slender trunk and leaves that are dark bluish-green with silverfish on the underside, the Florida silver can climb to 20 feet high and grows purple palm fruits that add to the unique look.
- Queen palm. This medium-sized palm tree can stand up to 15 feet tall and features slender leaves that are pinnate-shaped and have dozens of leaflets that can grow around 1.5 feet long, which gives the Queen palm tree it’s unique bush-like crown appearance.
Other Types of Trees That Are Native to Southern Florida
Palms aren’t the only types of trees that are indigent to southern Florida. There are several other species that thrive in the region, including deciduous (trees that can lose their leaves), fruit, evergreens, and conifers (pine trees). Examples of species of trees that are native to south Florida that aren’t palms include:
- The bald cypress
- The green buttonwood
- Live oaks
- Slash pins
- Brazilian beautyleaf
- Shumard oak
- Southern magnolia
- Sweetbay magnolia
- American holly
- Red maple trees
- Wind elm trees
- Sea grape
- Indian hawthorne
- Flowering dogwoods
- Longleaf pines
- Yaupon holly
Summing It Up As you can see, there’s no shortage of native trees to choose from for your south Florida landscape. No matter which species you decide to add to your property, with proper care, there’s no doubt that they will add visual interest and natural beauty to your yard that will last for years to come. A word to the wise: if you don’t have a green thumb or you’re a novice gardener, make sure to seek the guidance of a professional arborist.