205. Tuscawilla Park - Palm Point

205. Tuscawilla Park - Palm Point

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Palm Point is your classic cluster of Florida’s state tree, “Sabal Palm”, or “Cabbage Palm”. Notice the dense mass of contorted roots that have been exposed by years of water level fluctuations. This extensive root system, which can reach diameters of 6 – 8 feet,, and its extreme cold-hardiness allows it to inhabit shorelines, marshes and wet woodlands from the Florida Keys in the south to North Carolina.

Look to the west across the South Pond, and locate the younger and shorter clump of Sabal Palms. The youngest ones have spiky “boots” on the trunk, forming a very interesting texture, while the older, taller ones have a smooth trunk. You’d never think they were the exact same species.

Look carefully around in the grass. You will probably find little seedlings popping up all over the place. They look a bit like a thicker grass, about 6 to 8 inches tall. You may see the flower clusters remaining in the parent tree.

Did you know that Palm Trees aren’t even “trees”? They are “monocots”, similar to grasses. What on earth is a “monocot”, you may rightly ask. The majority of plant seeds can be grouped into two categories… those that split into two halves when the sprout, such as a bean, and those that don’t split into two, but sprout out of one whole part, like a corn seed or grass. Palm “trees” sprout out of a single-parted seed. (Imagine a coconut, and you’ll understand it.)

And why on earth is it called “Cabbage” Palm, anyway? It certainly doesn’t look like a cabbage, at any time of its life. One must go back in Florida’s Cracker heritage to find out. These hardy folks discovered that, among the many other uses the Sabal Palmetto has to offer, it has an edible “heart”. The youngest sprouting leaves are edible, but harvesting it is difficult, and it kills the tree. This practice began with the European settlers, presumably because none of the Native Peoples had tools sturdy enough to do the job. These Europeans called it “Swamp Cabbage”.. but again, why they called “cabbage” is a bit of a mystery, as it doesn’t taste particularly like cabbage. Harvesting the Sabal Palm in this way was curtailed when Florida made it the state tree.