Proper Pruning of Sabal Palms

Protect Florida’s vulnerable state tree – NO OVER-PRUNING – it is a harmful and unnecessary practice. Consider the facts of over-pruning:

  • Sabal Palms (commonly known as cabbage palms) are self-pruning palms, shedding dead fronds in high winds. They have survived droughts, fires and floods, enriched the soil and adapted to coastal and inland environments for thousands of years. Their spring flowers and winter berries are vitally important to the survival of migratory birds and Florida’s indigenous wildlife species. (It is OK to remove fruiting structures at some point, because they do become  safety hazards near traffic areas after awhile.)
  • Cutting healthy green fronds steals the palms’ source of nutrients, permanently stunts growth, invites disease and reduces the palms’ natural resilience to high winds.
  • Over-pruned palms develop bottleneck trunks. In high winds and hurricanes this stressed and weakened point will cause the palm to break off and die.
  • Pruning of protective green fronds makes the palm’s heart cold-sensitive and susceptible to winter frosts and freezes.
  • Over-pruning causes native and migratory songbirds, woodpeckers, butterflies, honey bees, tree frogs, bats, anoles, squirrels, and other wildlife to lose valuable food, shelter and nesting area.
  • Work boots and climbing spikes create wounds in the trunk leaving the palm prone to disease.
  • Though not necessary, it is acceptable to prune brown and yellow fronds hanging below an imaginary horizon line. Pole pruners work best. Prune stems away from the trunk.  Green fronds should not be pruned.

You Can Make a Difference

  • Do not cut green fronds.
  • Say NO to landscapers who want to prune green fronds. Exclude annual over-pruning from your landscape contract.
  • Keep lawn mowers, weed eaters and chain saws away from the trunk. These wounds are permanent and allow disease to enter the palm.
  • Mulch around palms to conserve water and keep out weeds, eliminating the need for weed eaters.
  • Enjoy your landscape, add fallen fronds to your compost or brush pile for wildlife. Fronds make rich soil for use in garden beds!
  • Work together to save and protect our valuable sabal palm, an integral part of Florida’s ecosystems.
  • Help spread the facts.  Copy this information to help educate others!

This information was obtained from a brochure created by Amy Mosher and friends in an effort to save Florida’s natural landscape, and supported by Central Florida Palm Cycad Society and the Florida Native Plant Society. Download and distribute, for free, non-commercial purposes, the flyer: Save_Your_Sabal_Palm

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