by Bob Harms ()

Texas Palmettos above Speedway

Palm with 10 foot trunk Palms between the seminary bridges Waller upstream from the seminary
Click on thumbnails or image on the right to enlarge them.
Area trunks > 2' trunks < 2' no trunks, 6'–12' no trunks, < 6' TOTAL
Hemphill & 30th St.
to first footbridge
3 8 11
first footbridge
to N. edge of seminary
9 79 88
N. edge of seminary
to N. seminary footbridge
6 21 40 67
between seminary
12 2 9 28 51
TOTAL 12 8 42 155 217

Observations on the North Waller Palmettos

The large Texas Palmettos between the two footbridges at the Austin Presbyterian Seminary were well established two decades ago, according to a senior groundskeeper. A few of the palms with trunks just under 2 feet tall may also have been planted, e.g., the 23" trunk at the N edge of the seminary. Others are likely to be recruitment of the original palms. [One of my own palmettos of a closely related species, growing without care on a hill country creek, has produced a trunk of almost 2 feet in c. 27 years.]

Above the seminary, small palms seem to be evenly distributed along the creek, but for any given span they are generally either on one side of the creek or the other; as shown on the left for the stretch upstream from the last trunked seminary palm to the footbridge at the fire station.

To some extent the topography (2 foot intervals) would seem to indicate that the volunteers are less likely to occur where the bank is steeper, and seeds deposited by birds and mammals are less likely to be washed away.

The mature seminary palms are one possible source of younger palms upstream from the seminary, with seeds dispersed by small mammals (raccoons, possums, squirrels) and fruit-eating birds (mockingbirds, bluejays, and perhaps cardinals). And a few plants have taken hold well up above the bank. This pattern of dispersal has been duplicated with a larger Brazoria Sabal palm (Sabal × brazoriensis) in the hill country. In recent years over a hundred young volunteers have appeared in areas with periodic moisture uphill and upstream from the mother palm. But a second possible source for some of these are seeds distributed by Doug Goldman:

There was a foot bridge over a tributary of Waller Creek I would cross between my apartment & campus, part of the seminary property, and last week I remembered how I would stand on that bridge in perhaps 1998 or 1999 and throw palm seeds into the shrubs to either side, both upstream and downstream.

In carrying out my survey I was unaware of the seminary palms and that section of the creak was the last place I visited — I couldn't believe my eyes! Prior to that I had entertained the possibility that the palms at Hemphill Park could possibly be from fruits of the very tall palms almost a quarter of a mile away along Guadalupe Street, where three tall palms grow between the curb and the sidewalk at 31st St. Given the distance and the intervening environment, with no waterflow connection, I had serious doubts that more than an isolated plant could have resulted from fruits of those palms. I checked the intervening neighborhood, looking for palms in yards. I did find a few cultivated palms, but not S. mexicana, and no mature plants.