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Widely distributed from the Florida Keys, down thru Mexico to Belize, and Cuba and the Bahamas.
Sheltered coastal positions on limestone and sandy soils.
A medium sized pinnate palm with a sparse crown, no crownshaft, and arching leaves to about 4.5m tall. Leaves are dark green and leathery, with light grey undersides.
P. sargentii has two main subspecies. P. sargentii subs. saonae has larger trunks and a pendulous infructescense. P. sargentii subs. sargentii has the thin trunk, but its leaf color is highly variable, from very dark green to light green thru to silver green.
Prefers lightly shaded, moist, but well drained position, preferably on alkaline soils. Very salt water tolerant. Extremely slow growing.
Figure 1. P. sargentii at Tulum,in a cleared tropical forest
(Contributed by Ken Johnson) Popular with south Florida folks because they are native and unique. When the seed is mature it is bright red, turning an average looking palm into a striking one. Their native (Florida) habitat is an island off the coast South of Miami but there historic distribution was even more widespread. They were found in the Keys south of the mainland too. All these palms were lost due to wild collecting and development. Some homes still have grand old specimens in their yards in the Keys. Another interesting fact is that they are not closely related to any other palm (except the other species). They were thought to be related to Wax palms from South America but an inspection of their genes found hundreds of matched pairs of chromosomes, something rare in both the palnt and animal kingdoms! When young, the leaves are disticate (in one plane) and another unusual thing about the Cherry Palm is that they hold one two or three seeds in one fruit. And last but not least they are about as salt and wind toleant as any palm. They can be found with their roots IN salt water in the Bahamas. These plants are very stunted and produce fruit at only a few feet tall. They may have only a foot of wood and be skinny as 2-3 inches!
Bob Lauri (Figure 1)
Kathryn Ostadal (Figure 2,3&4)