Thrinax radiata

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Thrinax radiata
Thrinax Radiata.JPG
Status TNC G4.svg
Apparently Secure  (NatureServe) [1]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Thrinax
T. radiata
Binomial name
Thrinax radiata
Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult.f.
Synonyms [2]

Coccothrinax radiata
Thrinax floridiana
Thrinax martii
Thrinax wendlandiana


Thrinax radiata, the Florida thatch palm, [3] is a medium to slow growing palm in the family Arecaceae. It is native to many Caribbean islands, Central America, and far southern Florida. Its natural habitat is sandy, calcareous soil in coastal areas.


Like all palms, this species grows thick and low to the ground before sending its meristem vertical, gaining the form of a slender tree. This species has no crownshaft and the canopy appears to emerge directly from the trunk. On average this species reaches a height of 20 feet. [4] It has large compoundly segmented leaves which are 4 to 5 feet wide and 2.5 feet long. [5] The leaves are palmate and divide into segments about halfway down their length with the leaf emerging from the petiole in what is described as a pointed hastula shape. The entire canopy consists of between 10 and 20 large leaves and on average gains only 6 inches of height per year. The shape of the canopy varies depending on its amount of insolation, with full sun specimens appearing more globular or compact, and shaded specimens having a longer, more spread-out canopy. This species can flower when the tree is only 6 feet tall. The inflorescences exceed 3 feet in length, arch downwards, and can extend below the frond. The flowers are white, bisexual, and occur year-round, with peak production in the spring. The resulting fruits, called drupes, are white and can also be seen year round.

It can be distinguished from the similar-looking genus Coccothrinax by its white drupes, whereas the drupes in Coccothrinax are black or yellow. Another distinguishing characteristic of Thrinax are its split leaf bases, while the leaf bases of Coccothrinax are fused. [5]

Common names

Florida thatch palm, Jamaican thatch, Chit, Silk-top thatch palm, Sea thatch palm, Caribbean thatch palm. [5]


Thrinax radiata is found primarily in coastal scrub areas from the Caribbean to Mexico, and can even grow in exposed limestone. It is also occasionally found in pinelands in South Florida and semi-evergreen forests in the Yucatán peninsula. Its seeds are eaten and presumably dispersed by many animals including bats, spider monkeys, toucans, armadillos, and deer. Young leaves are also eaten by spider monkeys, and mature ones serve as a refuge for several bat species [6] In Florida (Elliott Key in particular), the invasive Mexican red-bellied squirrel (Sciurus aureogaster) has had an extremely negative impact on T. radiata populations. It uses palm fibers as nesting materials and consumes the palm itself, often killing the plant. [7]











Thrinax phylogeny [8]

Thrinax radiata belongs to the order Arecales, family Arecaceae, genus Thrinax , and the species T. radiata [2]


In the wild, this species almost always grows close to coastal areas where it is adapted to tolerating heavy winds, high concentrations of salt, and even drought. It naturally grows in sandy and calcareous soils where it does best in high pH soil. This species is native to regions of the southern United States and the Florida Keys, western Cuba, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Hispaniola, the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. [5]


This species appears to be secure globally, however it is rare at the northern edge of its range in Florida. While it is commonly cultivated as a landscape plant in residential areas, its status is the wild in Florida is poor and it is only rarely encountered. [3] There are currently no specific efforts being undertaken to reduce the severity of this status in the United States. There are, however, restrictions on harvesting in Mexico, where human use has had a greater impact on T. radiata populations. [6]


This species is commonly used as a landscaping tree along roadways and in residential areas in South Florida (zone 10). Today, it is being widely planted outside of its natural historic range in South Florida and the Caribbean because of its ability to grow under various conditions. It is used by gardeners and can be grown in containers or in arboretums, which showcase this species’ prolific inflorescences and fruit. [5] Its common name derives from the use of its fronds in thatched roofing. [9] Its fronds are the most used part of the palm, being utilized in broom construction, handicrafts, and food wrapping. T. radiata's white fruit are edible [10] its trunks have recently been used to construct lobster traps by fishermen in the Yucatán peninsula. [11]

Related Research Articles

Arecaceae Family of flowering plants known as palms

The Arecaceae is a family of perennial flowering plants in the monocot order Arecales. Their growth form can be climbers, shrubs, tree-like and stemless plants, all commonly known as palms. Those having a tree-like form are called palm trees. Currently 181 genera with around 2,600 species are known, most of them restricted to tropical and subtropical climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves, known as fronds, arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, palms exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics and inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.

<i>Sabal</i> Genus of palms

Sabal is a genus of palms endemic to the New World. Currently, there are 17 recognized species of Sabal, including one hybrid species. The species are native to the subtropical and tropical regions of the Americas, from the Gulf Coast/South Atlantic states in the Southeastern United States, south through the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America to Colombia and Venezuela. Members of this genus are typically identified by the leaves which originate from a bare, unarmed petiole in a fan-like structure. All members of this genus have a costa that extends into the leaf blade. This midrib can vary in length; and it is due to this variation that leaf blades of certain species of Sabal are strongly curved or strongly costapalmate or weakly curved, weakly costapalmate,. Like many other palms, the fruit of Sabal are drupe, that typically change from green to black when mature.

<i>Zamia furfuracea</i> Species of cycad

Zamia furfuracea is a cycad native to southeastern Veracruz state in eastern Mexico. Although not a palm tree (Arecaceae), its growth habit is superficially similar to a palm; therefore it is commonly known as cardboard palm or cardboard cycad. Other names include cardboard plant, cardboard sago, Jamaican sago, and Mexican cycad. The plant's binomial name comes from the Latin zamia, for "pine nut", and furfuracea, meaning "mealy" or "scurfy".

Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden

The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is a frost-free arboretum and botanical garden containing a collection of trees, shrubs, and palms, including several "champion tree" specimens. It is located on Stock Island in the municipality of Key West, Florida, United States. It is open daily. There is a nominal fee for admission, with free admission for locals on the first Sunday of every month.

<i>Roystonea</i> Genus of palms

Roystonea is a genus of eleven species of monoecious palms, native to the Caribbean Islands, and the adjacent coasts of the United States (Florida), Central America and northern South America. Commonly known as the royal palms, the genus was named after Roy Stone, a U.S. Army engineer. It contains some of the most recognizable and commonly cultivated palms in tropical and subtropical regions.

Fan palm list of plants with the same or similar names

Fan palm as a descriptive term can refer to any of several different kinds of palms (Arecaceae) in various genera with leaves that are palmately lobed. Most are members of the subfamily Coryphoideae, though a few genera in subfamily Calamoideae also have palmate leaves. Fan palm genera include:

<i>Coccothrinax</i> Genus of palms

Coccothrinax is a genus of palms in the family Arecaceae. There are more than 50 species described in the genus, plus many synonyms and subspecies. A new species was described as recently as 2017. Many Coccothrinax produce thatch. In Spanish-speaking countries, guano is a common name applied to Coccothrinax palms. The species are native throughout the Caribbean, the Bahamas, extreme southern Florida and southeastern Mexico, but most of the species are known only from Cuba.

Thatch palm is a common name for several different species of palm trees that are used for thatching, and may refer to:

<i>Coccothrinax argentata</i> Species of palm

Coccothrinax argentata, commonly called the Florida silver palm, is a species of palm tree. It is native to south Florida, southeast Mexico, Colombia and to the West Indies, where it is found in the Bahamas, the southwest Caribbean and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Its natural habitat is rocky, calcareous soil in coastal scrubland and hammock communities.

<i>Zombia</i> Genus of palm endemic to Hispaniola

Zombia antillarum, commonly known as the zombie palm, is a species of palm tree and the only member of the genus Zombia. It is endemic to the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles. Usually found in dry, hilly areas of northern and southern Haiti and the northwest of the Dominican Republic, Z. antillarum is a relatively short fan palm with clustered stems and a very distinctive appearance caused by its persistent spiny leaf sheaths. Threatened by habitat destruction in Haiti, Z. antillarum is a popular ornamental species due to its distinctive appearance, low maintenance requirements and salt tolerance.

<i>Saribus rotundifolius</i> Species of palm

Saribus rotundifolius, also known as the footstool palm, is a common fan palm found in Southeast Asia. It is a member of the genus Saribus.

<i>Coccothrinax crinita</i> Species of palm

Coccothrinax crinita is a palm which is endemic to Cuba. Like other members of the genus Coccothrinax, C. barbadensis is a fan palm.

<i>Sabal palmetto</i> Species of plant

Sabal palmetto, also known as cabbage-palm, palmetto, cabbage palmetto, blue palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, swamp cabbage and sabal palm, is one of 15 species of palmetto palm. It is native to the Southern United States, as well as Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bahamas.

<i>Roystonea regia</i> Species of palm

Roystonea regia, commonly known as the Cuban royal palm or the Florida royal palm, is a species of palm that is native to Mexico, parts of Central America and the Caribbean, and southern Florida. A large and attractive palm, it has been planted throughout the tropics and subtropics as an ornamental tree. Although it is sometimes called R. elata, the conserved name R. regia is now the correct name for the species. The royal palm reaches heights from 50 to over 80 feet tall. Populations in Cuba and Florida were long seen as separate species, but are now considered to belong to a single species.

<i>Leucothrinax</i> Genus of palms

Leucothrinax morrisii, the Key thatch palm, is a small palm which is native to the Greater Antilles, northern Lesser Antilles, The Bahamas and the Florida Keys. Until 2008 it was known as Thrinax morrisii. It was split from the genus Thrinax after phylogenetic studies showed that its inclusion in Thrinax would render that genus paraphyletic. The generic name combines leuco with thrinax.

Cryosophileae Tribe of palms

Cryosophileae is a tribe of palms in the subfamily Coryphoideae. The tribe ranges from southern South America, through Central America, into Mexico and the Caribbean. It includes New World genera formerly included in the tribe Thrinacinae, which was split after molecular phylogenetic studies showed that Old World and New World members of the tribe were not closely related.

Cayman Islands xeric scrub

The Cayman Islands xeric scrub ecoregion covers a portion of the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea. The dry ('xeric') parts of the island are surrounded by mangroves, dry forest, or developed areas. Grand Cayman Island has been heavily cleared or degraded for human development; while the less populated islands have more intact shrub and wooded habitat.


  1. Thrinax radiata NatureServe
  2. 1 2 Wunderlin, R. P.; Hansen, B. F. "Thrinax radiata". Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  3. 1 2 "Thrinax radiata". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA . Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  4. "PlantFiles: Florida Thatch Palm". Dave's Garden. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Brown, Stephen; Cressman, Donna. "Thrinax Radiata" (PDF). University of Florida Extension. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  6. 1 2 Calvo-Irabién, Luz Maria; Soberanis, Alejandro (2008). "Indigenous Management Practices of Chit (Thrinax radiata) in Quintana Roo, Mexico". Palms. 52 (1): 46–50.
  7. Tilmant, James T. (1980). "Investigations of Rodent Damage to the Thatch Palms Thrinax morrisii and Thrinax radiata on Elliott Key, Biscayne National Park, Florida". Everglades National Park, South Florida Research Center.
  8. Roncal, Julissa; Zona, Scott; Lewis, Carl. E (2008). "Molecular Phylogenetic Studies of Caribbean Palms (Arecaceae) and Their Relationships to Biogeography and Conservation". Botanical Review. 74 (1): 78–102. doi:10.1007/s12229-008-9005-9.
  9. Wotherspoon, Darla. "Thatch Palms". Palm Tree Passion. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  10. "THRINAX radiata". Learn2Grow. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  11. Olmsted, Ingrid; Alvarez-Buylla, Elena R. (1995). "Sustainable Harvesting of Tropical Trees: Demography and Matrix Models of Two Palm Species in Mexico". Ecological Applications. 5 (2): 484–500. doi:10.2307/1942038.