Tag Archives: palm trees

Lawn Maintenance Scam in Florida Communities

Palms Against Sunset - mlm

We believe we live in paradise, but we know residents of retirement communities are frequent targets of scam artists. While we are all perceived as easy targets, our eldest residents are seen as the easiest. The Villages, FL, is no different and, with a population of over 100,000, there are lots of targets for those guys. I recently learned of a new scam – at least, it is new to me. It has to do with lawn maintenance workers and palms. As palms age, they are telling people that their palms are not planted deeply enough, and offering to replant them — for a fee, of course.


My cousin lives a few miles north of me, in one of the older neighborhoods. After reading this blog post, she told me there are also guys going door-to-door telling folks their shrubbery needs replacing. I suspect that, in reality, all it needs is a little TLC.

Missing Boots

Sylvester - lost boots - mlm

This palm lives on Odell Circle.

There are some types of palms that keep their boots* but, with age, may lose the lowest two or three rows of boots as shown in this photo. They will eventually will sprout aerial roots near the bottom of the trunk. Sylvester palms, and date palms (in the same family) do this. There may be others, but I have yet to learn of any.



Aerial Roots 2 - mlm

This palm also lives on Odell Circle, about a block from the one in the previous photo.

Aerial Roots

Aerial roots on palms, as shown in this photo, are nothing to be concerned about. They are simply a sign of an aging palm. Some people don’t like the appearance of these aerial roots, but it’s just what some palms do. If you really don’t like it, buy a different palm, or let wild Boston Fern cover the trunk of your palm.


The Scam

The scam is that these guys will knock on your door, and say something like, “Hey, your landscaper didn’t plant your palm deep enough, and it could die. Let me/us dig it up and plant it deeper for you”. They do this, take your money, and leave. Later, your palm suffers and dies from being planted too deeply. Remember, they have very, very shallow roots, and the subterranean roots need to remain near the surface. This scam targets anyone who has moved here from an area where there are no palms.

Of course, the oldest palms are in the northern-most parts of our community, but communities and villages north of Hwy. 466-A already have some aging palms. My photos were taken June 19, 2015, on Odell Circle, just west of Morse Blvd. Aerial roots can also be seen on the huge Date Palms planted around the square at Lake Sumter Landing.

A Much Older Florida Scam:

Another, much older scam around here:  rocks as mulch. This scam is targeted at people who move here from areas outside the Deep South, but that’s another story for another day. Before buying them, please talk to any Florida master gardener.


*What are Boots?

Boots - mlm

This Washingtonian is one of a group of palms that are said to be “armed”, with sharp points.

After removal of old leaves from a palm, a stump, for lack of a better word, is left behind, clinging to the trunk of the palm. This called a boot. Here are some photos of boots. You will notice that one is “armed” with sharp points, and one is not.


Cabbage Palm - Boots - mlm

The Cabbage Palm is one of a group called “unarmed”, as it has no sharp, prickly points.

These two palms, the Washingtonian (above) and the Cabbage (right), are among the few that have skirts as well as boots. The oldest part of aging skirts will fall off or be removed by wind. The boots, too, will eventually fall of on their own, or be taken off in high winds, leaving behind a smoother, but striated trunk..

Why Don’t They Remove the Brown Leaves on Sabal/Cabbage Palms?

Washingtonians with Skirts - mlm

Why do they leave those ugly dead brown leaves hanging down on some of the palms? And why those palms but not other types? Several people have asked me this. Many who are unfamiliar with tropical plants consider this to be messy and unsightly.  I have to admit, when we first moved here, I thought so, too. Since then, I have learned a lot about palms, and changed my opinion.

Those brown leaves hanging down like a grass skirt are called just that, skirts. The skirts are left for a good reason, and only on palmates, not on pinnates. Palmates (also know as “fan palms”) are called this because, like the palm of a hand, the leaves have a solid the center with “fingers” that extend from the center or base of the leaf.

A pinnate, on the other hand, has leaves that look more like the fronds of a fern. The Queen palm, the Sugar palm, the Mule, and the Sylvester, are perfect examples of pinnates. Below is an photo of a Queen palm taken on a very breezy day:

Queen Palm - mlm


Below are the leaves of a Washingtonian, an example of a palmate. The Cabbage palm, often called the sabal palm (probably because part of its latin name is “sabal”) is another palmate native to this part of central Florida, and many other parts of the U.S.

Palmate Palm Leaf - mlm 2

This Washingtonian is an example of a palmate’s large fan-like leaves.

The spent, fan-shaped leaves of the palmates hang down in layers over each other producing a perfect habitat for certain birds who make their nests inside. These birds eat mosquitoes. Please do not remove them from your palms unless, of course, your palm is so young and small that the skirts drag the ground, causing problems with mowing.

If you are having a problem mowing under the leaves of your palm, it is not properly mulched. This is because palms and trees* should be mulched out to the drip line. The drip line is the tip of the longest leaves or branches where water drips off onto the ground. Proper mulch for a palm is either pine needles or bark chips. Rocks should be kept a minimum of 3 feet away from the trunk of any palm, due to the shallow roots that are only 1 to 3 inches below the soil, and extend laterally about 50 feet. I will discuss this more in a blog post about the best mulches for use in the deep South with our shallow-rooted plants.

I know a lot of so-called landscapers around here install palms with those little concrete borders around the base of the plant. Almost all of them, especially the ones that encircle a single palm, are far too small, and too close to the plant.

Rocks & Soil Sloped Downward - mlm

The circle around this Sylvester was too small the day it was installed. That’s only one of three things wrong with this picture. Can you see the other two?


* That’s right, a palm is not a tree. Thought you had me there, didn’t you? Palms are classified as grasses, but that’s another topic for another blog post. Oh, yes, about the things wrong with that picture:  that’s for another post as well.