Oak trees could re­place palm trees

Florida’s iconic palms don’t cut it with cli­mate change

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Kim­berly Miller

Florida’s palm trees are post­card prom­ises of sigh­ing sea breezes and sandy beaches, but the icon of the trop­ics may be an im­prac­ti­cal adorn­ment in an era of cli­mate change.

From the re­gal royal palm to the some­times shabby cab­bage, the peren­nial sym­bol of the Sunshine State of­fers lit­tle shade to bak­ing urban heat is­lands and cap­tures min­i­mal amounts of car­bon — a green­house gas con­tribut­ing to global warm­ing.

As city of­fi­cials look for more ways to cool con­crete jun­gles and bal­ance car­bon emis­sions, the pri­or­ity for new plant­ings is of­ten broadleaf hard­wood trees, not the idyl­lic palm.

Live oaks can ab­sorb and store 92 pounds of car­bon a year with a ma­ture tree’s canopy span­ning more than 100 feet. That’s com­pared to less than one pound of car­bon for a royal palm and its com­pact crown of 15 to 20 fronds.

“Peo­ple com­ing from up north or other parts of the coun­try are ex­pect­ing to see palm trees, so I don’t see them dis­ap­pear­ing en­tirely from the land­scape,” said Charles Mar­cus, a cer­ti­fied ar­borist who wrote an urban tree man­age­ment plan for West Palm Beach. “But it would ben­e­fit most com­mu­ni­ties if they in­creased the per­cent­age of hard­woods and I think it’s some­thing cities will have to con­sider.”

Palms aren’t even an op­tion at City of West Palm Beach com­mu­nity tree give­aways, and a 2018 city or­di­nance puts an em­pha­sis on us­ing more shade trees in new con­struc­tion, es­pe­cially park­ing lots where 75% of the re­quired trees must now be shade trees.

“We’re not try­ing to seek out and re­place palm trees with canopy trees, but we are look­ing at if we have to do a re­place­ment, would a canopy tree fit,” said Penni Red­ford, re­silience and cli­mate change man­ager for

JOE BUR­BANK/ORLANDO SEN­TINEL FILE

Morn­ing clouds are re­flected over a stand of cy­press and cab­bage palm trees in Orlando.

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