The rare Coccothrinax crinita, or Old Man Palm is native and endemic to Cuba, meaning it is a species that evolved on this Caribbean island and is not found anywhere else in the world in native habitat. It usually grows in seasonally flooded savannah up to 500m, occasionally in grasslands and hilly areas. This palm can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit when mature and sheds its oldest thatch in windy conditions.
The long fiber husk that appears on the Coccothrinax crinita resembles an old mans beard, and is the source of its common name, “Old Man Palm” – crinita means hairy in Latin. The tree is also known as the “Old Man from Cuba”.
The Old Man Palm is now critically endangered with only 60 – 130 trees left on its native island of Cuba. There are many uses for this palm including using its fibers for pillows, the trunk for shelter, and the leaves for bowls. All of these uses have played a role in the rarity of this plant, as well as the destruction of its habitat.
Outside of its native habitat, the Coccothrinax crinita is often used as an ornamental palm in landscaping.
The Merwin Palm Collection contains one Old Man Palm growing in the Haiku palm forest, currently a “submature” plant.
If you’re inspired to help The Merwin Conservancy preserve and care for the Merwin Palm Collection into the future, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.