Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Palmetto State Park

with 23 comments

Although this picture from January 29th may make you think we went to Florida’s Everglades or some other tropical place, we drove just 70 road miles south of home, to Palmetto State Park, which might as well be a different world. The park is named for a stand of palmettos, Sabal minor, one of only two palm species native to Texas (the other is full-sized and lives at the southern tip of the state). The Ottine Swamp supports the palmettos and also fosters copious amounts of Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, which were especially conspicuous now that the trees were winter-bare.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2021 at 4:45 AM

23 Responses

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  1. I’ve always been intrigued by this place, but never have visited. I finally looked up the distance from here: 175 miles. That’s a bit much for a day trip now, but as the days grow longer, it will be doable. There are palmettos mixed into the woods at the San Bernard refuge, but everything is so tangled I’ve found it hard to compose a nice photo. The bands of differently colored texture and color you found are especially nice.


    February 5, 2021 at 7:04 AM

    • Right: the palmettos in this park, or at least some parts of it, are considerate enough to stay low and not obscure the trees and Spanish moss. I’d expect you to have palmettos in your eastern part of the state, but their presence as far west as Gillespie County surprises me. They’re native in Austin, too, but don’t occur here in colonies as expansive as the one in the picture (or at least I haven’t ever come across any).

      When there’s more daylight, as you said, a day trip would be worth it, especially if the area has gotten some rain to refresh the palmettos.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2021 at 7:36 AM

  2. We don’t see palmettos in No. Calif. so whenever I do see them in the south, I am fascinated. I know they are a common sight to many southern residents, but what a lovely plant they are. I enjoyed this visit you made to Palmetto State Park, Steve, thanks for taking us along.

    Jet Eliot

    February 5, 2021 at 9:08 AM

    • We have palmettos in Austin but they’re not all that common, nothing like the density and expanse at Palmetto State Park. The same is true for Spanish moss. You’re welcome for the visit, which isn’t over yet, as there’ll be at least two more posts about it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2021 at 9:16 AM

  3. When the landscape is usually lifeless and grey in the long winter months, green is more than just a colour. It gives me hope for an early spring. These are my sentiments this morning while looking at your latest photo, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    February 5, 2021 at 9:22 AM

    • I appreciate your longing for spring in a land of cold winters (even if your winter has been unusually mild compared to what you’re used to up there). At least when it comes to green you have evergreen trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2021 at 9:42 AM

      • Indeed! This may be the reason why I like taking pictures of the evergreen trees.

        Peter Klopp

        February 6, 2021 at 9:16 AM

  4. Great contrast between the green of the palms and the leafless trees behind.


    February 5, 2021 at 11:21 AM

    • You make a good observation about that 2-to-1 split of leafless trees and Spanish moss above green palmettos.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2021 at 11:26 AM

  5. It did make me think of Florida… palmetto and pine forests are so easy to get lost in as everything looks the same!

    Eliza Waters

    February 5, 2021 at 3:31 PM

    • Thanks for your Florida confirmation. Fortunately Palmetto State Park isn’t large enough to get lost in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2021 at 5:51 PM

  6. !!! I know those scrub palms are nothing to brag about, but I am determined to grow them, specifically those from McCurtain County of Oklahoma! ‘McCurtain’ is a variety grown from seed that were collected from McCurtain County, but I got mine from someone who collected seed from his plants that were grown from seed that were collected in McCurtain County. (Okay, I know that is confusing.) In other words, mine are not the ‘McCurtain’ variety, but came from the same region. I like bragging to colleagues that Oklahoma has as many native species of palm as California does.


    February 6, 2021 at 11:31 AM

    • You make a good point about equality of palm species between California and Oklahoma: one apiece. Many (or most) people don’t realize that almost all the palms they see decorating California come from somewhere else.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2021 at 7:11 PM

      • The species that is native to California lives in desert regions, so does not do so well here, and is consequently rare. It is my favorite palm, and used to be very pretty in the Santa Clara Valley, but all the old trees that I remember are succumbing to excessive irrigation of landscapes that have since been installed below them. Even if people believe that only a single species is native to California, they are doubtful that a species of palm is native to Oklahoma. Furthermore, only a few species of palm are native to Hawaii, and all of them are of the same single genus. I do not know if Texas or Florida has more palms, but strangely, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana lack some of the species of Texas and Florida.


        February 6, 2021 at 11:42 PM

        • From what I see online, Florida has 12 native palm species. Texas has only two, the other being Sabal mexicana at the southern tip of the state.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2021 at 7:14 AM

          • Only two?! That sounds more credible than the information that I read, although I am surprised that there are twelve in Florida! That is the problem with the internet. There is so much inaccurate information out there.


            February 7, 2021 at 10:35 AM

            • I have no way of verifying, but here are the 12 supposedly native palm species:

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 7, 2021 at 11:48 AM

              • Your source seems to be more credible that what I had seen, although the picture of the silver palm is actually a Bismarkia palm. I thought that dwarf palmetto and scrub palmetto were the same. I was not aware that Miami palm is a distinct species. Nor was I aware that silver palm, buccaneer palm and Royal palm are native to Florida. Yet, even without these species that I was not aware of, the remaining seven species are more than what Texas has, . . . even if Texas has six (as I read elsewhere).


                February 7, 2021 at 12:32 PM

                • In addition to the two native Texas palms I mentioned, what are supposed to be the other four?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  February 7, 2021 at 4:07 PM

                • I have no idea. I am only aware of Sabal minor and Sabal mexicana, which is also known as Sabal texana, and perhaps considered to be a variety of Sabal palmetto, rather than a distinct species. If Sabal mexicana or Sabal texana is considered to be a distinct species, then Sabal palmetto could be a third native palm. Sabal brazorensis might be considered to be a fourth native species, also, if it is not considered to be a variety of Sabal palmetto. So there could be as many as four species of Sabal; minor, mexicana (or texana), palmetto, brazorensis. Otherwise, I can find no information about other palms that are native to Texas. A long time ago, I distinctly remember being told that the California (or desert) fan palm that is native to Southern California and Arizona is also native to New Mexico and the western extremity of Texas, but can find no documentation of colonies that far to the East.


                  February 7, 2021 at 6:17 PM

  7. Nice that you have so many ecological environments there. I like the divided layers of color and bare trees…well bare aside from the Spanish Moss.

    Steve Gingold

    February 8, 2021 at 4:43 PM

    • I’ll be showing pictures that focus independently on each of the two layers, starting with the Spanish moss tomorrow. And yes, we do have a variety of environments within an hour or two of home—but then so do you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2021 at 5:32 PM

  8. […] wouldn’t do justice to Palmetto State Park, which we visited on January 29th, without showing you at least one close view of designs in the […]

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