Often found just above the high-tide mark along the Atlantic coasts of its native Brazil, the Allagoptera arenaria is popularly known as the “seashore palm”. Dominant in Restinga, it is also found growing on low coastal dunes of eastern Brazil, in Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and Espírito Santo. It occurs on white sandy soils from sea level to 100 meters and lives naturally in sandy soil (sometimes salty), along the coast of southern Brazil.
The generic name of the seashore palm, Allogoptera, comes from the Ancient Greek words (allage), meaning change, and (pteron), meaning wing, and refers to the swirled, changing pattern of the feathery leaves. The species name, arenaria comes from the Latin, for “sandy” or growing in sandy sites.
In Portuguese, the palm has many names, such as Coco da Praia, Buri da Praia, Coqueiro da Praia, Coqueiro Guriri, and Guriri.
The spiky flower stalks have both male and female flowers, so one plant can produce seeds by itself. The female flowers and the fruits that follow are borne in distinct spirals. The leaves of the seashore palm emerge right out of the ground from a subterranean trunk that is rarely visible, and grow in a swirling pattern, spreading out on different and seemingly random planes.
In its native environment, the seashore palm is highly tolerant of poor soils that have good drainage, thriving in soils that are thoroughly moist.
Based on fossil records, it is also regarded as the most ancient of palms, a predecessor to all others.
There are three of this species of fruit palm growing in The Merwin Palm Collection, and all three of these are submature.
Want to “virtually explore” the Merwin Palm Collection? Search through our archive of Palm Facts of the Week, featuring palms hand-planted by W.S Merwin. To search through the Online Merwin Palm Database, visit this link.
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