SO WHERE IS THE NORTHERNMOST PALM TREE?

Palm trees are, let’s just say it, AWESOME! I mean, who doesn’t like seeing one? I suppose if you have a tropical habitat, maybe you would grow tired of these majestic, yet hardy, trees. But for most of us in North America, you know you’ve landed in Vacationland the moment you set your eyes on one of these.

A question that has always bugged me, though, is just how far north can you go to still take in that comforting site of a palm tree?

Now, this question comes with a ton of caveats. There isn’t just one kind of palm tree in the world – there are literally thousands of types. Some can exist as far north as Ireland and the state of Washington – though these palms are cultivated and not native to the land. According to Wikipedia, the northernmost native palm is the Chamaerops in Southern France. I’ve seen similar palms in Congaree National Park in the central part of South Carolina. The beautiful Palmettos in both Myrtle Beach and Charleston, S.C. are within a long day’s drive from most of the major Atlantic coast cities.

The Chamaerops is cool and all, but it’s hardly the type of palm associated with a beautiful sandy beach. I guess my question narrows then, where can one find the northernmost, um, one of these…

palmtreeshawaii

So I guess we are looking for coconut palms, then? In reality, the Florida Keys is the only habitat available in the U.S. that will grow and maintain coconut palms consistently. But native palms exist further north than that. The traditional cutoff lies on a line that stretches from Tampa to Melbourne in Southern Florida. In fact the town of Palm Bay is positioned just south of Melbourne – though it’s name comes from the prevalent sabal (Palmetto) palms. However, apparently coconut palms can crop up as far north as the Orlando area (per this blogger who noted the fruit-bearing tree in and around Sea World). Are these native or cultivated? Hard to say, but I’m sure a few weak ones will spring up from time to time.

California is known for palm trees – but coconut palms are rare. San Diego seems to have a few and one could say the city owns the title of the northernmost spot for these palms to reside. But look further north and we may have our champion…

Newport Beach, California, all of 33.37 degrees North (almost eight degrees fully north from the beginning of the Florida Keys), is apparently home to the northernmost (cultivated) coconut palm. This little winter survivor was planted in 1984 and (I presume) continues to live on to this day. Brent from American Voyages visited this tree a couple years ago and did a great writeup on this very topic (that being northernmost coconut palms). It’s a scrubby little version of the tree, but it is, alas, a coconut palm!

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35 thoughts on “SO WHERE IS THE NORTHERNMOST PALM TREE?

  1. There’s Hawaii, and Puerto Rico-US Virgin Islands,Guam,Northern Mariana,American Samoa. All in the political USA. More so Hawaii,a US State.

    You said the Florida Keys….islands. That makes HI,PR,USVI ,Northern Mariana-Guam ,Samoa fair game. 🙂

  2. European Fan palms, or “Windmill” palms can be cultivated in a grow house and, when established, are hardy enough to survive as far north as the Delmarva peninsula and the New Jersey coasts. Similar palms are found in southern Ireland and the southern coast of England because or the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. I have seen Washingtonian Robusta palms as far north as Orland, California. Also seen a Washingtonia in Columbia, SC.

  3. I have seen windmill palms as far north at Victoria BC and Lincoln UK. I have also spotted them in the ground in Southern New Jersey (Cape May) and indeed many nurseries in the area sell them, and I have seen palms sold in Home Depot on Long Island NY. but never saw them planted in any home front yards.. There is also a few growing pretty good in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in NYC. And I’m not sure but in Wildwood NJ there is a large night club that has them planted all over I dunno if they are there year round or they just plant em for the summer. And you see a lot in Ocean City MD.

  4. Washingtonian Robustas as far north as Ft Bragg Ca.They were also planted in the late 1800’s throughout the Central Valley and the Gold Country Sierra foothills to indicate stagecoach stops.

  5. Coconut palms in Florida are seen growing native in Hawaii too! Also, coconut palms can be seen as far north as Sarasota Florida.

  6. Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis) grow well in London, U.K., and in southern coastal areas of England, where there are also some Washingtonia robusta. Windmill palms will grow almost anywhere in the U.K.

    • The Gulf Stream warms the southern coast’s of Ireland and Britain. Palms cannot survive sustained sub-freezing temperatures. Windmill or European Fan Palms are probably the hardiest palms in the world.

  7. CLARKSTON, WASHINGTON USA we had one growing here, the typical what you think of as a palm tree-type. We are also known as Idaho’s inland seaport, straddling the state line and serve as the entrance to Hell’s Canyon. I do believe that one tree kept alive with the use of heat tapes finally may have bit the dust after decades here as I didn’t see it last time I looked for it.

  8. Lugano, Switzerland. When you drive through there, you feel like you are in the tropics. To put it in perspective, it’s the same latitude as the northern most shores of Lake Michigan

  9. Northernmost may be in Scotland, on the west coast. Scilly Isles, off Cornwall, has a subtropical garden as does Lake Konstanz in Switzerland or Germany. For NA, I’ve heard DC is northernmost on east coast and Vancouver, BC on west.

    I’m still locating northernmost Crepe Myrtles and say one in bloom in Doncannon, PA, north of Harrisburg.

    • Thank you! I’ve seen the ones on Lake Constanz. As you’re right about Scotland, the Gulf Stream warms the British Isles.

  10. I’m from South Carolina and there are Palm tree all over the state….I have a cousin in Sumter…and theres Palmetto trees all over town….also, Columbia, which is quite a ways from the coast, has Palm trees all over the city….and the Coast line especially the barrier islands, have them growing wild….sometimes growing wild in bunches right on the beach. The only state to rival South Carolina when it come to the Palmetto is Florida. After all, South Carolina nickname is the Palmetto state.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dee! When I started this topic, my original intent was to locate the northernmost “coconut palm”, the archetypical representation of the tropical palm tree. However, its fun to see where this topic went with all the variations of the palm tree (and palmettos). When I lived on the east coast, I loved the relatively short day trip drive down to the South Carolina beaches to see all the palmettos lining the streets. Charleston also happens to be one of my absolute favorite cities in the country.

  11. The Keys are not the only habitat for growing & consistent coconut tree obviously your not a Florida native. There are coconut palms all over south Florida along with royal palms. Guess you miss the long line of stable coconut palms along Miami Beach.

  12. I think one of the comments below hit the nail on the head. It must be Bermuda. You are unfortunately mistaken about San Diego having coconut palms. There are zero of them growing in our Fair City. However, the very popular King palm looks very similar to it and is planted by the thousands, which may be the source of your confusion. As for the one in Newport Beach, I have recently read that it is no longer there. It is simply too cold in California for coconut palms. Just in the past two weeks here in San Diego, we had almost every day in the low-to-mid 60s and very chilly nights. Coconut palms won’t tolerate long stretches of weather like that. And it looks like it will continue for another few weeks. That is simply the death knell for that species. So I would say Bermuda it is!

    • The northernmost Coconut Palm I’ve seen was on St. Petersburg Beach, Fla. It was near the Gulf, planted on the south side of an apartment building; but, alas, no coconuts. Nothing close enough to fertilize it.

  13. There are many hearty windmill palms in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve even seen them as far north as the Sunshine Coast, well north of Vancouver. Although I’ve never been there, my guess is that they could be cultivated in coastal areas as far north as Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) thanks to the Gulf Stream and the lack of sustained or extreme freezing temperatures.

  14. When in England, yes England ! I saw palm trees growing it seemed uncultivates in Cornwall in the far southwest near Lands End. Hardly tropical but easily the mildest climate in England. The Gulf Stream is a wonderful thing !
    No, no coconuts. Buying wild coconuts was common along the road in Florida South of Miami until at least the 1960a . I remember we bought one and brought it all the way to Chicgo before busting it open to eat. Yes, it was fine ! Though dad was a Floridian, getting that husk off was one war ! Using hatchet and saw.

  15. The southernmost Nikau palms from New Zealand – very hardy and you can buy seeds easily on the internet … They grow them in England …

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