Florida Institute of Technology

Self-Guided Tour

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The Florida Tech Botanical Garden contains more than 200 palms, bamboos and other rare and common botanical specimens—too many to appreciate in one visit. The self-guided walking tour outlined in this brochure will introduce you to some of the more interesting and accessible specimens in the garden. If you would like more information about palms or the other plants found in the garden, you are invited to visit Evans Library located adjacent to the garden’s south entrance.

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Melbourne’s Original School House

Relocated to the Botanical Garden on the grounds of Florida Tech, the old school house is a reminder of the education environment of times past in this part of Florida.

Go up to the road and turn left.

Gingerbread Palm (Hyphaene spp.)

The three large palms in front of you, one with a branched trunk, are Gingerbread Palms. The branched trunk looks as if it might be the aftermath of a lightning strike, but it’s not. The branching of the trunk well above the base is a natural tendency of this species of palm. As you follow the path into the garden, you will be descending into the floodplain of Crane Creek. You will note that these Gingerbread Palms are growing on the higher ground above the creek’s floodplain. This palm is native to the more arid regions of central Africa and is quite at home here in this relatively drier and open location on the edge of the garden.

Go down the road to the Dent Smith Trail sign and down the trail to Stone Marker.

Dent Smith Trail Stone Marker

From this location, several garden specimens of interest can be seen. Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) The three young palms on your left are

Bottle Palms

Bottle Palms are native to the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean where they are now threatened with extinction. The trunk becomes enormously swollen at the base as the tree matures. Mature height for these slow growing palms is about 12 feet.

Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)

The large plant in the hanging basket to your right is a Staghorn Fern. These ferns are epiphytes or “air plants,” which means they get their nutrients from the air, not soil. Since they like a shady, moist location, it’s not surprising that their native habitat is the tropical jungles around the world where they are found attached to the sides of trees, for support not nutrition. Keep an eye out while in the garden, and you may spot other Staghorns hanging about.

Royal Palm (Roystonea regia.)

The tall palm with the smooth, light gray bark, located directly ahead and down the trail a bit, is a Royal Palm, a native to tropical Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America. It is best viewed from this distant vantage point since, as you can see, they can get quite large (up to 100 feet). As a consequence, most planted Royal Palms are found in large public spaces rather than the typical home landscape. These palms are found in wet, swampy areas in the wild, such as this garden, but readily adapt to well-drained soils.

Follow the trail and turn right at the first intersection

Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto)

This familiar looking palm, also known as the Sabal Palm, is native to the southeastern United States and is the state tree of South Carolina and Florida. This hardy palm is common in both the wild and in planned landscapes throughout Florida, including several in this garden. The terminal bud (cabbage) can be harvested for food and was reportedly done so in the past. However, the practice is destructive to the palm.

About halfway down this trail branch to the right.

Motacu Palm (Attalea speciosa) [on right]

A tree of the South American lowlands, this palm is now widely planted in public places. It is a frost-resistant palm that reaches a height of about 50 feet.

Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) [on left]

This clustering palm is a native of Southeast Asia. It is relatively fast growing to a height of 20–30 feet. It gets its common name from the shape of its leaves.

King Palm (Archontophoenix cunnningham)[on right]

Originally from the rain forests of eastern Australia, this palm will grow relatively quickly to 25–40 feet in height if given adequate water and light. It is a self-cleaning palm, which means it sheds its boots naturally.

Keep to the right and start around the loop.

Spiny Licuala Palm (Licuala spinosa) [at top of loop]

Prized for its attractively segmented circular leaves, the most striking aspect of this clustering palm is the shape of the split leaves with their blunt, serrated ends. Note also the clustering nature of this palm and its spiny leaf stalks. This palm’s home is the wet, low-lying regions in and around Indonesia.

Exit the loop to the right.

Chocho Palm (Astrocaryum mexicannum) [ahead in trail fork surrounded by canna lilies]

This native of Mexico and Central America likes filtered light and plenty of rich moist soil. It is a spiny palm and remains small, growing to only about 15 feet. The leaves can get to 10 feet in length and the leaflets as long as two feet. Note the leaflets are bright green above and silvery below.

Turn left at trail T.

Bambusa emeiensis flavidorivens [on left]

This is a warm climate, clumping bamboo that can grow to a height of 30 feet or more. If you are visiting in the warmer part of the year, you might notice new sprouts emerging from the underground rhizomes next to the existing culms (canes). Note the alternating green and gold on the mature canes. Origin: China.

A Syagrus Palm (Syagrus pseudococos) [on right]

This slender palm originates from Brazil and can reach to a height of 50 feet. It is related to the common, locally planted Queen Palm and is not freeze tolerant.

Silver Bismarck Palm (Bismarkia nobilis) [at trail T straight ahead]

This striking Madagascar native is a palm that would be noticed in any location with its distinctively colored leaves. The leaves can attain a spread of 20 feet or more, even on young trees, making it a specimen of choice for only larger yards and spaces. When you walk the garden again sometime, you might look for a much taller Bismarck.

Split-Leaf or Cut-Leaf Philodendron (Phil. selloum) [gigantic on right while on the bridge]

The name says it all. This evergreen in the background with three-foot leaves is a native of the rainforests of Paraguay and southeastern Brazil. Yes, it’s related to philodendrons often seen growing indoors in a pot and climbing around a stake.

Turn right at the T toward the patio or plaza

Miraguama Palm (Coccothrinax miraguamma) [on the right before pond]

This young palm, in the foreground, originates from Cuba and is popular in landscape plantings for its formal appearance and moderate mature size (20 feet). It likes sun and can be planted in groups. If you look carefully, you will notice a distinctive change in the width of the leaves about midway along their long axes.

You may notice some fish and quite likely some turtles in the pond to your right, and we could tell you something about them, but that’s the subject of a future Botanical Garden self-guided walking tour.

Schefferi (Ptychosperma schefferi) [on left]

A palm from the tropical forests of New Guinea and adjacent pacific islands. It prefers filtered light and moist conditions. It usually grows to about 15 to 20 feet in height when grown in the semitropical United States.

Bambusa tuldoides ventricosa [huge bamboo clump at south end of pond and to right of bridge]

It is estimated that this stand of warm climate, clumping bamboo has been growing here for 20 or so years. With adequate light, individual canes can grow to a height of 40 feet. Probable origin: China.

Turn left or west just prior to bridge that goes south

Weavers Bamboo (Bambusa textiles gracilis) [on right]

This tightly clumping bamboo can handle below freezing temperatures as well as heat. It grows to only 15 to 20 feet tall and can be planted as a standalone specimen or as part of a hedge. Origin: China.

Hurricane Palm (Dictyosperma album var. rubrum) [on right]

This variety is also known as the Red Princess Palm. Hurricane palms are popular landscape palms and grow to 20 feet in height. The common name relates to its supposed resistance to hurricane force winds. Like the Spindle Palm, these palms also hail from the Mascarene Islands where they, like the Spindle, are facing extinction.

Turn left at the bridge, go over the bridge and turn left

Travelers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) [several clustered just to the left]

The Travelers Palm, indigenous to Madagascar, is not a palm at all but a tree related to the banana tree. Note the vertical leaves that spread out like an open fan. Travelers can cut the stem and drink the water found inside, but it is doubtful the orientation of the leaves can provide, as legend has it, any reliable indication of compass direction. Like bananas, they propagate by sending up shoots and, as evidenced by this grouping, can get quite tall.

Timor Black Bamboo (Bambusa lako) [on right]

This species of black clumping bamboo originates from the Timor Islands and cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. The glossy black culms (canes) and contrasting green foliage make this a striking bamboo in any setting. However, its culms can grow to a height of over 40 feet.

Lady Palms (Rhapis excelsa) [long row of smaller palms on left]

Left unattended, the dark green leaves adorn the stems to the base and can form an effective screen. Older stands develop slender trunks beneath a nice mass of foliage. This palm usually reaches a height of 7 feet and can be successfully container-grown indoors. It is native to China and fairly cold tolerant.

Pindo Palm (Butia capitata) [back up the sidewalk toward the southwest, on left]

The Pindo is one of the smaller palms, growing to a height only about 15 feet. Pindos are remarkably cold tolerant, down to 17°F, and are widely planted in north Florida, South Carolina and even in southern Alabama. They make attractive specimen plants with arching, usually blue green leaves. Pindos are native to central and southern Brazil and neighboring Uruguay and Argentina. The fruit of the Pindo is quite tasty and can be made into a jelly; hence, a common name for this palm is the Jelly Palm.

Paurotis Palm (Acoelorraphe wrightii) [on other side of upper walk]

This native Florida palm is found in the Everglades and thrives in wet locations. Paurotis maintain a slender trunk, grow to a height of 20 feet and, if left unattended, will form large clusters.

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