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What is Coccothrinax?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Coccothrinax is the genus name for approximately 50 different species of palms. As a member of the Arecaceae family, these palms typically have a single stem and long, pointed leaves that fan out from that stem. Primarily, the species are native to the Caribbean, Cuba, and Florida and are often found in pine forests, amongst scrub, or in dunes. Coccothrinax usually produces a small, three-petaled flower as well. Although they prefer to grow in warm climates, many species of Coccothrinax can grow in a greenhouse or as an indoor houseplant.

Although several species of Coccothrinax grow well in Florida, only one species is native to the area: C. argentata. C. argentata is also known by its common name, Florida silver palm. The aptly named Florida silver palm has a single stem with yellowish-green leaf blades that are silver on their underside. The fan-like leaf stalks grow to 24 inches (about 61 cm) long and 24 inches (about 61 cm) wide. The flowers are small and white, but they grow in large clumps or panicles that can reach 10 feet (about 3.05 m) long and the palm itself can reach heights of 25 feet (about 7.62 m).

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One species of Coccothrinax, C. borhidiana, has been listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). IUCN is a global authority that assesses whether a species is at risk for extinction. C. borhidiana is only found on limestone shelves in a small area of Cuba called Punta Guanos. It only grows to about 7 feet (about 2 m) tall and has a distinctive skirt of dead leaves around its trunk. Fire, oil extraction, and road construction all threaten the survival of C. borhidiana, but there are plans to introduce it to other ecosystems in the hopes of saving the species.

Generally, Coccothrinax grows best outdoors in neutral or alkaline soils. Although the soil should be moist, it should also drain easily and be in full sun. If it is grown indoors, it should be in full light, yet it should be protected from intense heat. Typically, liquid fertilizer should be added to the soil monthly and the palm should be watered liberally during the growing season. During the winter months, it will require much less water.

Spider mites have been known to plague most species of Coccothrinax. In addition, Graphiola leaf spot, or false smut, may be an issue. Pesticides can help fight off the spider mites, while fungicides can help prevent the spread of false smut to leaves that have not been infected with the fungus.

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