104 seeds for the price of 10!

Of all the strange seed I brought back from Oklahoma, none were from the scrub palm, Sabal minor, that is endemic to McCurtain County in the very southeaster corner of Oklahoma. I did not get to that region.

Sabal minor is nothing special to those who are acquainted with it. However, a variety that was selected from those in McCurtain County, which is known simply as Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’, is becoming increasingly popular in climates where winter weather is too cold for other palms. It is sufficiently resilient to frost to survive in New England and Canada.

I just wanted it because it is from Oklahoma.

Since I did not collect any wild seed, I had considered purchasing a seedling of the ‘McCurtain’ variety online. It would have been rather expensive for a single seedling. I was pleased to find seed of the same variety that were significantly less expensive for several seed. I know they grow slowly, but I am in no hurry. I gain bragging rights as soon as the seed germinate.

Unexpectedly, I was even more pleased to find seed on eBay that were collected from trees that were collected from the wild in McCurtain County, but were not of the ‘McCurtain’ variety! I know that seems trivial, and maybe even less desirable to those who want a garden variety, but for me, such seed are more closely related to those I would have collected if I had been there.

For $6.00, I expected delivery of a packet of ten seed of Sabal minor from McCurtain County. I could not pass on a deal like that. Instead, I got the 104 seed in the picture above! That is ten times what I was expecting. They will grow into more scrub palms than my garden can accommodate. RAD!


11 thoughts on “Scrub Palm

  1. A Twitter friend sent me seeds two years ago and they all started well. I have kept some which should resist the European climate and Normandy where the temperatures are sometimes low (even if this winter is relatively mild.) It completes my collection of palm trees !

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    1. If yours are from McCurtain County, they should be fine in all but the most extreme climates of Europe. They might not like Scandinavian climates. That is why they are gaining popularity in New England, where there are not many other palms that will survive winter. Is your collection complete because in includes all the palms that can be grown there, or just because you got all the species you want?

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      1. My Sabal palmetto seeds come from a Twitter friend who lives in North Carolina. I don’t know exactly where they come from. Otherwise I rather make a collection to my idea with the seeds that I chose here and there ( holidays, purchases…), or that people send me. I have about 15 different with sometimes 2 or 3 of each ( just in case) ; of course some hardy for France like trachycarpus fortunei, wagnerianus, needle palm, chamaerops humilis…but also exotic varieties that are overwintered in a heated bench at this time of the year ( sabal domingensis, date palm, phoenix roebelenii, pritchardia pacifica, foxtail palm, dwarf royal palm, …. and more)
        Palms are lovely aren’t they?!

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      2. Yes the are. There are a few in Southern California that I would like to grow here, but the different climate is rather limiting. Washingtonia filifera is my favorite palm, and is very tolerant of (and actually prefers) frost, but wants warmer and drier weather than it gets here. It survives, but is not very happy about it. It is one that is best in the wild.

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  2. I germinated some Sabal minor from seeds a long time ago. Now have a couple dozen or so plants growing here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore (DelMarVa peninsula). Now big enough to flower and produce seeds. Currently getting about a 5-gallon bucket of seeds of every year. The seedlings are cold hardy (at least to -5F). The mocking birds feast on the seeds all winter long and spread them everywhere. I have seedlings growing everywhere.
    The palms appreciate water but are very drought tolerant. A little bit of shade helps with the foliage color.

    Would like to try some Sabal etonia I saw growing in Florida on the beach where I took refuge from the sun underneath their costapalmate leaves. Found one native plant organization in Florida that had some for reforestation. Been meaning to contact them but not sure where to plant them or whether I’d have to grow them inside a few winters.

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    1. If you do not see them anywhere else in your region, they may be a good reason for it. They may not survive through winter there, or if they do, they may not be happy about it. I believe that they are appropriate to the climate there, but I really do not know. There are other factors to consider, besides frost. The species would tolerate the minor chill we get here, and would even tolerate colder weather, but is not pleased about minimal humidity, which is why it is not grown here.


  3. Yes, you’re right about S. minor requiring heat and humidity to flourish. On the East Coast, their native range extends northwards to the North Carolina / Virginia border following the Pungo River to the Great Dismal Swamp. Gary Hollar, of garysnursery in New Bern, NC has documents some very large specimens growing in the wild on the Pungo River. My location is several hundred miles north of his. It’s possible their native range extended much farther norther before the last glaciation. Certainly they could naturalize very easily where I live. Most years we’re considered Zone 8a (lowest winter temps 10-15F) but roughly every decade we can expect a cold winter down into the single digits (Zone 7a) or below. These palms have survived blizzards here with temps down to -5F. That said, the seeds don’t readily germinate until temps are 90-100 with 90-100% humidity. Seeds started sprouting everywhere this year mid-July. LA has the requisite summer heat but not the humidity.

    On a side note, I’ve got a Chilean wine palm (jubaea chilensis) that’s thriving outdoors. I think they’re the most cold hardy feather palms but can’t stand humidity so don’t grow in FL. I bought a sack of 1,000 coquitos and had a 100 that germinated. Grew some in pots in a cold frame and lost some through the winters eventually got down to 3 then just 1. So decided to plant the lone 10-gal size survivor outdoors several winters ago and it’s doing just fine, surviving our notorious hazy, hot and humid summers and making it through a historic blizzard. Very slow growing though. The faster growing Pindo (Butia capitata) palms are occasionally planted here but have marginal cold tolerance and are usually short lived. There is a bi-generic hybrid of the Pindo and Chilean palms that is supposed to have the cold tolerance of Chilean Wine palm and the growth rate of the Pindo, but I haven’t tried it.


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