Requiem For A Royal

Royal Palm

Our royal palm came down the other day — not by wind or disease, but by choice and chainsaw. It had simply become too worrisome, too big for its britches, too big for our own good.

Joe and I first planted the tree in the ‘90s. We had just purchased our Fort Lauderdale home and went about the yard planting a variety of small palm trees because they were cheaper and would eventually be fully grown by the time we made the move to be full-time Floridians.

For the royal, we chose the backyard, near the corner of the house — a great location for it to provide shade as the future-us lounged and floated in our pool-to-be.

The Royal and me.

The royal and me.

Like many new homeowners, though, we never really considered the scope — and the width and height — of “fully grown,” especially when it came to the royal. In the twenty years since it was first planted, the royal did what it was supposed to do. It grew into the reigning monarch of the yard, the pillar of the palms.

Royal Palm

Looking back, there were issues that out of ignorance or denial we ignored. On one vacation to visit the house and clean up the yard, Joe and I discovered one of the older royal fronds — green sheathe and all — had fallen from on high.

Royal Palm Frond

All palms shed their older fronds, but the royal has to be big about it. Fronds from this tree are more like brontosaurus ribs — and neither Joe nor I ever considered the consequence of a royal frond falling onto our future landscaped beds and our pool-to-be.

We were fools, mere jesters in the court of the royal.

Royal Palm

Now would be a good time to fast-forward to the present, when the yard is landscaped and the pool-to-be is an actual pool. Despite the progress and changing times, the royal continued to behave as it always had — and this created conflict and headache.

Royal Palm

The royal struck first with the bloom of its inflorescence, a very large multi-branched collection of tiny flowers. They fell like snow on the plants below, and we chuckled about it and swept away the pollen and flowers.


With a change in wind, though, the particles fell into the pool, where they looked like thousands and thousands of floating Styrofoam beads. Again, we worked to maintain order and cleanliness, but we began to whisper under our breath that the royal was a mistake.

Then, of course, there was the continued shedding of its fronds. They fell like an iron fist — thunderous and heavy, with little regard for the plants and terra cotta pots and patio furniture below.

Again, Joe and I cleaned up the mess. With blood, sweat, and tears, we looked upward, keeping a weary eye open for the next frond assault — and we would move everything out of the line of fire.

The royal was making us, demanding us, to work — and now, we were openly talking of rebellion.

There aren't any rings to count to determine the age of the royal -- or any palm, for that matter.

There aren’t any rings to count to determine the age of the royal — or any palm, for that matter.

In truth, though, it was Hurricane Matthew that forced our hand. Although Fort Lauderdale escaped the brunt of the storm, Joe and I — locked behind storm shutters and unable to see — listened for any alarming sound that would indicate the royal was crashing down, either on our house or the neighbor’s.

It’s bad enough the Today Show obsesses on the comings and goings of the royals, so worrying about it in our own backyard was too much for us to bear.  We hired help to bring it down.

The only rings are the ones left as the crown shaft grows and older fronds fall -- but these have nothing to do with the age of the palm.

The only rings are the ones left as the palm grows and older fronds fall — but these only indicate growth and not the palm’s age in years.

As the climber made his cuts and large sections of the tree crashed to the ground, and as his helpers rolled the hefty sections to the street, I could only think of the statues of human history’s rulers pulled down by riotous mobs or the movie scene in which the crown — or in this case, the crown shaft — of the deposed monarch falls to the ground.

Royal Palm

I’d like to say that bells rang out, that there was great rejoicing and happiness across the land or even in our own yard — but I can’t. There was, instead, a pile of debris and sawdust and a void where the royal once presided.

It’s never a good feeling when a tree comes down.

I do think, though, the story serves as a reminder to all homeowners — and that is to always consider the concept of “fully grown” when planting anything.  If not, plantings planted with the best of intentions can quickly grow to be a royal pain.

15 thoughts on “Requiem For A Royal

  1. Great post and I fully understand. One small Queen Palm was planted in the front yard of our Central Florida tract house in 1994. Today it stands over 30 feet tall and requires a boom truck to perform the necessary annual pruning. This maintenance gets more expensive every year! We may be looking at removing our palm tree as well.

    • Hi Lynn. Ugh. We’re now in the process of planting newly sprouted palms around the bases of the larger coconut palms that are now soaring. Like you said, upkeep is both expensive and labor intensive — which was okay when I was younger. Not so much now. Good luck with your queen.

  2. I suppose because I live in a place where forestry is a major industry and where the forest is always threatening to take over even more space than it already commands, I don’t have any problem with removing trees. I have two that will come down this year. One is a paper birch that is dying and keeps dropping ever larger-limbs onto the garden below (although, so far, not onto my head). The other is an eastern hemlock that is too close to the deck and leaning precariously toward the house. I didn’t plant either of these trees. They were already mature specimens when I bought the house 25 years ago and had probably planted themselves. I was all set to have them taken down last year when I looked up and could see at least two birds nests in the hemlock. This year, I’ll try to get the tree guys in at the end of winter before the birds start nesting.

  3. So do you regret planting it? I think it’s an amazing palm and probably would have done the exact same thing just to grow it… even knowing it would have to come down before its time.

    • Hi Bittster. No regrets — but a learning experience. I do love the palm, but I’m content to see it growing in other places where it won’t pose a danger to me or my house. It truly is majestic tree — but it overpowered the yard.

  4. In our area we can’t take a tree out without a permit and they are rarely granted. Of course I’ve known people to arrange stealth tree-removing parties! But I do understand how a previous error in judgement can really make a tree a problem. We have certainly experienced that through the years. It was a beautiful palm that was probably fun to watch grow. It served its purpose. Enjoying the pool serves yours!

    • Hi Debra. Although there is an empty area in the yard — and larger view of the sky — there is certainly less mess and danger. We’ve also begun planting smaller palms around the yard in anticipation of taller palms that may have to come down in the future.

  5. I hate royal palms. They were so over-planted in the Homestead area. So many people, municipalities, landscapers plant cute shrubs, hedges, underneath these palms. I would always cringe when I saw this type of planting. Their fronds are made to snap off in high winds, thus saving the trunk to stay in place. You did the right thing, removing this palm that was too large for your property.

    • Hi Mary. Thank you for the vote of confidence. When the tree was first removed, there was a gap — a tremendous gap — in the landscaping. Without having to worry about the damage the royal could cause, I now embrace the wide open space. 🙂 Hope all is well in your part of the world.

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