Mexican Fan Palms in Chincoteague, Virginia

wetsuiter(7b/8a)June 27, 2011

I took an afternoon drive down to Chincoteague today. It's just an hour and half south of my Delaware beach town midway between here and Virginia Beach.

It didn't surprise me at all to see Windmill palms, but it did surprise me to see greater numbers of

Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia). Typical to

a resort area the palms

were mostly at motels, restaurants and places like mini golf.

Most were in the 4' to 6' height range and obviously had wintered over. Most had some burned outter fronds. But they all had plenty of new, healthy

green fronds and emerging spears.

I was actually hoping to see some sabal palmettos being closer to Virginia Beach, where they're numerous and thriving. Didn't notice any of those, but the Washys really surprised me.

Since Chincoteague is only 55 miles south as the crow flies, I'm definitely going to plant one of my Washys out in the garden and see how it does.

Sorry I didn't get any photos. Just wanted to pass on my observation today.

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I saw a few washingtonias in va beach so there definetly hardy there. I think you should try growing them. For the winter you should protect them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:50PM
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I'm guessing Chincoteague Island might be borderline zone 8a/8b since Virginia Beach is solidly 8b and where I am is the northern end of 8a along the Eastern Seaboard. Plus, being an Island between the "Mainland" Virginia portion of the DelMarVa Peninsula and the Assateague Barrier Island, Chincoteague may have a unique micro-climate, slightly warmer than their neighbors on the rest of the Va Portion of the Peninsula.

While doing research on Sabal Palmettos, I came across a few articles about how during the earliest colonial days in the 1600s, a stand of S. Palmettos were reportedly growing on Chincoteague. They likely were cut down for farming, building the town or succumbed to the "mini ice age of the 1700s and 1800s, as some suspect. It might explain why Sabals do so well in Virginia Beach. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't see any of them in Chincoteague. Maybe some private back gardens are harboring some...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 1:18PM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

Hi Wet,

I would haved liked to see some photos. Maybe next time.

Considering Chincoteague Island is a barrier beach somewhat southward of DE, its feasible to get away with some palm growth there. I never heard the story that sabals were found that far north. I know they do not always do well planted in open beach areas of coastal NC and VB. The cold winds desicate them on bad winters. But if planted just a block inland with some other tree and home wind protection they seem to thrive even! I heard early settlers found sabals growing at Cape Hatterus NC but cut the native population down for food. Its called a cabbage palm because they eat the bud and it tastes like cabbage.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 2:43PM
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wetsuiter i think there might be a microclimate but what I think makes va beach warmer is the chesapeake bay. When going south across the eastern shore after you cross the Delaware bay the area becomes a solid 7b and after you cross the Chesapeake bay it becomes an 8b.

About sabal palmettos some one on this form has one growing in delaware (I think ?). I have a 1 gallon that I will plant in a few years and protect in zone 7a

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 3:02PM
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Yeah, sorry I didn't get photos of the Mexican Fan Palms in Chincoteague.

Here is one link to the citation about Chincoteague and colonial era Sabal Palmetto. Google "Sabal Palmetto Chincoteague, Virginia" and there are other articles/discussions.

I know I've hashed this out before on this Forum, but 2003 and 2006 updates to the USDA zones place the entire Delmarva Atlantic Coast (from the Atlantic Beaches of DE all the way south to Cape Charles, VA) in zone 8. The Delaware Bay Coast and interiors of the Peninsula--Dover & Georgetown, DE and Salisbury, MD are indeed are zone 7b. Those areas are often 10 degrees F colder on winter nights than those of us hugging the coast. The AHS update even places eastern Cape May County NJ and the southwestern corners of the of Maryland's Eastern Shore along the Chesapeake in zone 8(a).

I've only seen one mature, hurricane cut Sabal (8' tall) in Southern Delaware, a few miles inland inland from Bethany Beach at a garden center. It's wintered over the past two years and the crown is mostly burned, but it's been greening up. I think hurricane cut is a big mistake here as they don't recover well in marginal areas. It might have done better planted right in town Bethany Beach. Smaller, potted Sabal Palmettos with a good root ball and crown intact would have a better chance of long term survival, but they are hard to come by.

I have a test bed of Sabal seedlings in an isolated, protected back dune area among other beach shrubs, grasses and such. I'll report on if they survive the winter. There are several other local Sabal enthusiasts with them in their gardens. There are probably more than I realize or know of.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 3:32PM
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Wonder what their winter lows were???
Definitely need to have summer heat for any kind of recovery.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:15AM
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Jim, it gets plenty hot in Chincoteague (and here ) most days 85 to 90+, so they'll recover.

Can't specifically address their winter lows, but here in coastal Delaware ( 55 miles due north ) we had our coldest nights in years -- 16�F two nights in a row. Chincoteague might have dipped below 20. They get even less snow than we do since they're on a barrier island.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Hunter_M(Kentucky Z.6)

Could mexican fan palms survive Bedford va.? (zone 7a)

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:14PM
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It would need alot of winter protection, Hunter. They are considered hardy to zone 8. Probably 8b. I've read that they can survive 18F.

You can find out palm hardiness by Googling the palm you're interested in : "Mexican Fan Palm Hardiness"

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 9:51PM
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