Nothing adds a tropical ambiance to gardens quite like palm trees! Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is uniquely situated in a part of Florida that can grow a wide variety of palms beyond the twelve species native to the state. There are 2,600 species of palms known to science. They occur on every continent with the exception of Antarctica and inhabit a wide variety of ecosystems. Some interesting facts about palms is that they hold the record for largest inflorescence of any plant on Earth (Corypha spp.), the largest seed (Lodoicea maldivica- Coco de Mer), and the largest leaf in the plant kingdom (Raphia regalis)!
The use of palm trees in the landscape at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens goes all the way back to the property’s founder, Dr. Henry Nerhling. Some of the specimens he planted can still be seen today like the Silver Palms on Bear Loop and the Puerto Rican Hat Palm in the Black Bear Hammock exhibit. The last of the original Royal palms he planted at the entrance to his home was unfortunately lost during Hurricane Irma. Since his time, palms have been added to the landscape by both Julius Fleischmann and the Tetzlaff family through the years. The zoo is currently growing over 100 species either in the landscape or the nursery area that will be planted out when they mature. Palms in the Zoo’s landscape are not just purely decorative, with the leaves and trunks being used for browse and enrichment for the animal collection, and being utilized for special event décor. Some of the Horticulture department’s favorite specimens are the historic Silver Palms (Coccothrinax argentata) on Bear Loop, the Flamethrower Palms (Chambeyronia macrocarpa) near Canyon’s Edge picnic area, and the Marquesas Palm (Pelagodoxa henryana) to the right of the tiger picture cutout.