As the “Dog Days of Summer” are here, there are a few things that always stick out to me this time of the year, Tough Buckthorn (Bumellia tenax L) blooming,essential hydration, and Palmettos (Sabal palmetto L) blooming to name a few. Growing up and working for my dad, when the palmettos started blooming I knew I only had about a month until school started back up. I was going to be cutting blooms out once the bees were done “doing their thing” with the palmettos. It was like a end of the summer right of passage, a horticultural holiday of sorts, the reality was sore arms from using a pole saw and a “no crying or complaining policy” instituted by my father.
Dad was always trying to recognize the benefit of something as it related to another in the world and how we could work more efficiently. He knew various birds would eat the palmetto fruit, yet he would curse the seedling that it would create afterwords. He also recognized the bees that would be around the flowers as well. (He was highly allergic to them). He had to make a choice, cut the flowers out early, wait for the bees, wait for the birds, or wait until later.
So waiting until the Palmetto flowers turned a little brown was the queue for cutting out the flowers, so no fruit would form and create a maintenance nightmare later with the seedlings. Which by the way, the only thing that works to get rid of them is to pull them by hand and or dig them up. There is not a herbicide around that effectively kills them when spray.
Was cutting the flowers after the bees did there thing, the right way to go? Dr Richard Porcher and Dr Douglas Rayner denoted for Dwarf Palmetto’s (Sabal minor L) inflorescence (flower) was a source for honey (A Guide to Wildflowers of South Carolina, page 296). The pictures above shows a bumble bee, yet when I first saw it, there was also a european honey bee, by the time I returned the honey bee was gone. David Jones had published that few palm are attractive to bee, but for the species that are visited, the honey is highly esteemed and also mentioned specifically Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens L), which is native in the southernmost counties of South Carolina (Palms throughout the world, page 58). It would appear that Dad was right, then again if he knew the drupes (Sabal species fruits) were edible, I could only imagine what would’ve been the procedure then.
So the next time you gaze upon our and Florida’s state tree (even though it is a monocot and related to grass), just think about the positive impact it has on the bees, before hastily removing the inflorescence (flowers), but make sure you do before the birds get to them.
I hope everyone has a great rest of the week and a beautiful weekend, and don’t forget to “Grow Forward.”