My husband and I frequently walk through City Park and around West End Park, and we have noticed that many oak trees have some type of palm growing by their base. Is there a reason why?
Walk in the Park
While I pride myself on knowing all, when I don't know the complete answer I know who to call. In this case it's Dan Gill, the consumer horticulture specialist at the LSU Ag Center.
Gill said the answer to our palm tree question isn't mysterious, but simply a case of seeds finding shelter in a safe place and taking root. Palm seeds fall in a variety of locations, he said, including open areas of lawns and fields. "When the seeds germinate and grow in these open areas, however, they are mowed down and eventually die," Gill said. "So, although palm seeds may fall in open areas, you never see young trees growing there."
Live oak trees like the ones you find in New Orleans City Park are a common spot to see these young palm trees for a couple of reasons, Gill said. The first is that staff don't mow close to the roots, so any palm seeds that sprout at the base of a tree don't get chopped down. A second reason is that birds that eat the ripe fruit of palm trees may roost in the oak trees and return the seeds to the ground near the base of the trees in their droppings.
Gill said there's no real affinity between the oak and the palm tree. Like all good real estate, it's just location, location, location. "The base of the oak trunk simply provides a spot where the seedlings are not mowed down and can grow," Gill said. "Ideally, the seedlings or young palms should be removed."