Cold-Hardy Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei) at UMCES, Solomons, MD in album plants

In Albums:gardening trees plants

A large windmill palm tree growing outside a modern brick building, just taller than the 1-story building, with lush foliage

Aug 16th, 2002, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows a rather large palm tree, of the species Trachycarpus fortunei, growing outside a building of the UMCES lab in Solomons, MD.

This palm was planted and tended by Professor Robert Ulanowicz, now professor emeritus. Ulanowicz, who is a theoretical ecologist with whom I worked at the lab for one summer, publishing an interesting paper together, on the topic of networks and information theory: Quantifying the Complexity of Flow Networks: How Many Roles Are There?.

Trachycarpus fortunei, also called the Windmill Palm due to its large, windmill-like leaves, is among the most cold-hardy of palm trees; its native range includes high altitude regions in southern China, where it is exposed to cold temperatures. It is an important fiber plant as well as a popular landscaping plant. Maryland is just outside its natural range, but the mild moderate microclimate on Solomons island, which is surrounded by the Chesapeake bay, provides a protected area where this palm was able to not only grow but thrive. Ulanowicz was an enthusiastic palm breeder, and raised four of these palms, and then bred a second generation of palms of this species, selecting them for the most cold-hardy specimens.

This particular tree has attracted media attention, in a 2006 article Palm gracing Solomons conjures up a tropical breeze.