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vicupstate

Are Palms used excessively in Jax?

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This letter to the editor in the T-U is timely and in my opinion makes some very valid points. Jacksonville is better off showchasing it's diversity of flora rather than trying to duplicate the South Florida landscape. Live Oaks in particular are highly prized in many coastal area. Palms are great for highways but for the Riverwalk and other park-like and pedestrians area, Palms should be represented, but not dominantly or exclusively used.

LANDSCAPING

Palms are used excessively

The Northbank Riverwalk is a beautiful addition to Jacksonville's waterfront.

I only hope the landscaping includes something other than the palm trees shown in the Times-Union photos.

We are being overrun with palms in our area. Every highway interchange has them lined up like soldiers. Each new subdivision has palms precisely clustered at its entrance.

Super Bowl preparations along Bay Street include -- guess what? --palm trees! We could have pink clouds of redbuds blooming in January, snowy dogwoods and mounds of azaleas in March and April, and magnolias all summer.

Maples have red leaves in the fall and thick green foliage the rest of the year. Oak trees are second to none for majesty and stateliness.

With all of these choices, why are palms the only things planted?

We live in a part of Florida where several varieties of trees thrive. Developers and planners should use some imagination and keep us from looking like South Florida where palms are often the only thing that will grow.

L.A. MORROW, Jacksonville

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I would love to see some small blooming trees along Bay Street, but whatever. However, I will say this: Jacksonville may be using palms because palms are associated with South Florida. Maybe they're trying to shed their "Georgia" image by using these so-called "Florida trees".

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I'm guilty of that in my own yard. I've been planting palms and I am definitely on the most Northern stretch where they can survive. My Pindo's, Palmett's and Windmills have done well. The Mexican Fan Palms and Sagos have a lot of burning every winter and a 10 degree morning 3 years ago killed my 3 smallest Mexicans. The larger ones do pretty well once established, though.

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I walked the entire length of the new riverwalk this past weekend. Its loaded with Palms the entire length. I believe the only shade trees along the walk are on Fidelity's property. It was a cool day, but I can imagine it will feel like hell when June, July and August come around.

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In all fairness, the northbank riverwalk is essentially a pier over the river, a fact not readily apparent because of the bulkheads. Thus, most of the trees are essentially "potted" rather than planted in any kind of solid ground. Oak trees couldn't survive there, because they need a larger root base (or they'd crack the concrete).

That being said, I agree 100% with the sentiment behind that letter. The city has been planting way too many palms. Our street trees should provide shade. There was no excuse whatsoever for replacing bay street's oaks with palms this year.

The government should collectively ask themselves ... do we want our environment to look like Ft. Lauderdale or Savannah? To me, the latter is clearly a more desireable option.

Where are the oaks, the magnolias, the birch, the (un-pruned) crape myrtles ????

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Also, to be fair, palm trees are not all that grow in South Florida. We also have pine, oak, gumbo limbo, myrtles as well as an astounding amount and variety of flowering trees. There's really nothing quite like it. Take a trip through Coconut Grove if you want to see the wide variety of our trees.

That being said, I agree completely with writer. We have all these palm trees in South florida because people planted them. They're cheap and don't take up a lot of room, by development standards. I would hate to see the same thing happen in Jacksonville.

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Add Tampa to the list of overusing palms. This is hot Florida we live in and we need shade not toothpicks trees. Palms are for tourist and newcomers. Not for longtime residents. The model for public landscaping for most of Florida I think is Orlando. Orlando uses a lot of palms but they seem to do a much better job of mixing it up with shade trees than other FL cities. If you take a look at the countryside around Tampa you see a lot of diversity in trees. Maybe 5% palm and those natural palms are mainly the ugly cow pasture palm I think they are called sable palm. Anything coastal plus south of SR 70 can use more palm because it is more of a tropical climate. The rest of Florida is SUBtropical.

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The one thing I will say about the palms is that at night, the lights from the lamp posts light up the sidewalks much better, while a larger tree would block the light. For example, consider Adams St near the Carlington. Before the construction, they had larger trees on Adams St, and it felt a little unsafe (I never really felt "in danger", but I did take notice). However, now that trees are gone, it really opens the area up at night, and makes the area feel safe.

We need to get people downtown at night, not during the day (they're already there). Let's make it more inviting at night, not during the day.

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Jacksonville might over use palms, but I think it looks good. Live oaks take years to fill out, and palms are a quick fix.

I remember driving down Atlantic (near the beaches) before it was lined with palms. It looks 1000 times better now.

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We need to get people downtown at night, not during the day (they're already there).  Let's make it more inviting at night, not during the day.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Downtown and the Riverwalk in particular need shade during the daytime as well. If you work in one of the Fidelity buildings or the St. Joe building, you will be a lot less likely to walk to the Landing, if your shirt is going to be soaked when you get there. If you are going to drive, you might as well go somewhere that has plenty of parking, especially free parking.

A recent article on the Riverwalk completion quoted a guy that worked in the Haskell building, who hadn't been to the Landing in years. He finally went back because of the Riverwalk was now complete. He said he would probably do so more regularly because the view was nice and it was convenient. He and others like him may head for their cars again when temperatures reach the 90's.

You can always trim lower branches and use additionally lighting, to add a sense of security. The pedestrian experience is paramount to bringing people back to downtown. Also, we want people downtown in the daytime on weekends don't we? Let's give them some shade!!

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Jacksonville can find ways to use other types of trees downtown but the problem as others have mentioned is the root system of the oaks. They take up a lot of space but are very shady. What kinds of trees are there that will work well?

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mature oaks would still take years to grow. why not keep the palms along side some oak saplings. that way you have the best of both worlds.

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Jacksonville can find ways to use other types of trees downtown but the problem as others have mentioned is the root system of the oaks. They take up a lot of space but are very shady. What kinds of trees are there that will work well?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't think that Jax is using too may palms in the downtown area. They lend themselves to where they are planted and provide a very nice aesthetic (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?). As for looking like South Florida, I don't see it. The Date Palms that are used are few and far between compared to the Washingtonia and Sabal palms used up here. And those palms are indigenous to all of Florida and the Carolinas. As long as the majority of palms are Washies and Sabals, with a smattering of Dates, OK. The minute we see Dates or S. Florida specific palms all over the place, then we are in trouble.

As someone mentioned, the palms are most likely used as they work best in tight and less than hospitable places. Another reason to refrain from something like an Oak along the riverwalk is the root systems. Within 10-15 years (perhaps less), a Live Oak planted within 20-25 feet of the bulkhead would have roots hitting it. You don't have to worry about such things with a palm.

Alternatives to palms in the urban environment (for shade) run the gamut from Crape Myrtles to Oaks. Unfortunately, there is no "perfect" tree as each will have something that will make it less than ideal for the urban/pedestrian environment. But for conversation, here are some things I prefer to use when working on urban projects in the North Florida area:

- Crape Myrtle

- Elm

- Ligustrum

- Holly

- Live Oak

- Shumard Oak

- Little Gem Magnolia

- Claudia Wannamaker Magnolia

The Urb

p.s. - most palms that are applicable to S. Florida cannot live up here (although many people still insist on planting Queen palms and the like up here) and will eventually be killed off during a cold winter.

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Whats wrong with more "exotic" trees like oranges,lemons even apples,plums,cherrys etc???

Its very comon,well not that much on main street, in Europe on many streets to see trees that produce fruits or is problematic since people would "steal" or attack these trees.

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I don't think that Jax is using too may palms in the downtown area.  They lend themselves to where they are planted and provide a very nice aesthetic (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?).  As for looking like South Florida, I don't see it.  The Date Palms that are used are few and far between compared to the Washingtonia and Sabal palms used up here.  And those palms are indigenous to all of Florida and the Carolinas.  As long as the majority of palms are Washies and Sabals, with a smattering of Dates, OK.  The minute we see Dates or S. Florida specific palms all over the place, then we are in trouble.

As someone mentioned, the palms are most likely used as they work best in tight and less than hospitable places.  Another reason to refrain from something like an Oak along the riverwalk is the root systems.  Within 10-15 years (perhaps less), a Live Oak planted within 20-25 feet of the bulkhead would have roots hitting it.  You don't have to worry about such things with a palm.

Alternatives to palms in the urban environment (for shade) run the gamut from Crape Myrtles to Oaks.  Unfortunately, there is no "perfect" tree as each will have something that will make it less than ideal for the urban/pedestrian environment. 

The Urb

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks Urban LA for the very informative and interesting post.

I don't have a problem with using Palms, but must we use them exclusively. As I've said before, Palms are great along highways and certain other areas, and where alternatives are not available. I also don't have a problem with a combination of Palms and other trees.

However, Palms of one variety or another are all that are ever planted it seems. Bay Street is a prime example of what I am referring too. The city REMOVED existing Oaks with decent canopy, and replaced them with Palms.

Can't at least ONE of the trees you listed be planted along the Riverwalk, to provide some shade?

Also, I do think they are trying to give a South Florida appearance. Regardless of type, to most laymen, a Palm is a Palm. They say tropical. Why not emphasize the UNIQUENESS of this area by showcasing the BLEND of numerous indigenous trees.

In South Florida, the "trophy" trees are Palms. In the Carolinas and Georgia the "trophy" tree is a Live Oak. Jax has both in abundance, why not put both on display whenever possible.

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Whats wrong with more "exotic" trees like oranges,lemons even apples,plums,cherrys etc???

Its very comon,well not that much on main street, in Europe on many streets to see trees that produce fruits or is problematic since people would "steal" or attack these trees.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The major drawback to all of the one's you have listened (and other similar fruiting / citrus trees) is that most will freeze and die during our N. Florida winters. It's not necessarily a condition of whether people would steal or attack such trees, but a fact that this area is no conducive to their survival. There is also some practical issues that have to be considered...these trees fruit and if they are not adequately maintained, it could get very messy and/or hazardous. Second to that is the fact that some citrus (i.e. lemon) have thorns and that is not good in a pedestrian / urban environment.

In South Florida, the "trophy" trees are Palms. In the Carolinas and Georgia the "trophy" tree is a Live Oak.    Jax has both in abundance, why not put both on display whenever possible.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I see your point regarding the exclusivity of palm use. It would be great if the palette were wider in terms of the mix between palms and hardwoods. As for the trees I listed, all would be good (except the Oaks) along the riverwalk for shade. I am not a big fan of the new riverwalk (from a landscape/microclimate perspective) and I keep wondering what the designer was thinking.

The Urb

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