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Timber Press Pocket Guide to Palms

By Robert Lee Riffle

Its value goes well beyond an identification guide.

Lakeland Ledger

Native to every continent except Antarctica, palms are most closely identified with tropical regions and one species in particular, Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm, is the universally recognized symbol of all things tropical. Yet, many palms can withstand freezing and thus can be grown in mild temperate climates where the average low temperature does not drop below 5°F (−15°C). In addition, palms thrive in a wide range of habitats from swamps to deserts, rain forests to plains and grasslands. Some prefer full sun, others deep shade. Some are stemless shrubs, others are solitary or clustering trees, and still others are vinelike, but all are evergreen.

Given such diversity and versatility, it is surprising that palms are underutilized in landscapes and gardens, even in tropical climes. Several reasons account for this, including misconceptions about the plants' growing requirements and unfamiliarity with their ornamental qualities. This pocket guide remedies both problems. It unlocks the keys to successfully growing 200 of the most common and easily obtainable palm species and hybrids, and it highlights botanical characteristics that are of interest to gardeners and landscapers.

Each description includes details of trunk, crownshaft, leaf, flower, and fruit to assist in plant identification and selection. The extensive cultivation notes include details of mature tree size, cold hardiness, and light, soil, and water requirements. Suggestions for using the plants indoors and out will help even novice gardeners know where to start, and succinct information on seed germination will assist anyone who wants to grow their own palms from seed.

Illustrated with more than 300 color photographs, this guide is a valuable complement to An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms and an ideal reference for taking to the nursery or garden center.

Media reviews

"Copiously illustrated with high-quality color photographs, the text is concise, complete, and includes tropical plant expert Riffle's personal appraisal of each plant's horticultural utility."

—G. D. Dreyer, Choice

"Although [it] is an outstanding companion for plant lovers visiting nurseries or botanic gardens, its value goes well beyond an identification guide. ... Will prove invaluable to local gardeners."

—Charles Reynolds, Lakeland Ledger

About the author

Robert Lee Riffle

Robert Lee Riffle (1940–2006) was an internationally recognized authority on palms and tropical plants. His landmark book, The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants (1998), won an American Horticultural Society Book Award, as did An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms (2003), which he co-wrote with Paul Craft.

Read more about Robert Lee Riffle

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