Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sago Palms

I love sago palms (which I recently learned aren't a type of palm, but a Cycas revoluta. They are related to the conifers and gingko trees.). We have a total of 5 of them in our yard. We planted our first one about 10 years ago.

A couple of months ago, I noticed the "old one" had some horrible "disease." It had this growth all around the inside and I was so sure it was going to die. But, it recently produced more leaves, so I wasn't sure what was happening.

Then, about a month ago, one of our palms in the backyard started to develop this unusual growth (above). (I took this photo last week after I noticed it had started to fall over and was sad I hadn't photographed it earlier. The cone is over 2 feet tall!) So, I started doing some research, mainly on this site.

First of all, you can not tell a male or female sago by looking at it until it is mature. Most sagos must be 15-20 years old before they are mature enough to bloom, and they also must be established in your garden or landscape.

Continuing from the site: In late spring, a mature male Sago produces a golden cone, shaped like a giant pine cone which may grow over 2' tall as shown in the photo above. A female produces a huge golden flower which slowly opens when it is fertile, then closes, and begins to produce viable seed if pollination from a male sago was successful. (I also read on the site that when the pollen is ready it will produce a sweet perfume odor! I guess I missed that...)

So, the photo above (of a sago we planted only 4 summers ago) is of a male sago with its cone. This will only happen very 2 to 3 years. The other years, it'll just produce more leaves.

The "diseased" sago we have in the front yard was actually a female with seeds! We must have missed seeing the flower last spring, as the seeds appear the following spring. You can grow new Sagos from the seeds, but you're supposed to gather them in January through March.

The site also said that rarely a male Sago will have more than one cone. We saw a Sago with 2 cones near one of Alexandra's classes last week, but I didn't get a photo. Too bad!

Another cool site with a photo of a male and female Sago. And now, some more photos.

This is our large female - she's about 6 feet tall!

These are her seeds. I had to pull up the layer of new leaves to see and photograph these.

I pulled a couple of her seeds to look at - and to test! If the seeds have been fertilized, they sink. If they are not fertilized, they float. Ours... floated. :-(
While reading about Sagos, I learned that insects and the wind "can" pollinate the Sagos, but most commercial growers actually break the male cone off, hold it over a female flower, and shake it. :-) Too bad our male and female didn't cooperate this time!
I wish I had a photo of "newer" leaves - these are almost uncurled. We love to look at the new leaves. And, they're soft where the older leaves can stab you if you aren't careful.

Above is a closeup of the male cone. It kind of looked sticky and did not smell "sweet." And, it looks like pollen sticking to the cone.

This is the view when you look straight down on the male Sago Palm (near the base of the cone.) Neat, huh? I think it kind of looks like Medusa's hair.

And, this is how I thought Sagos reproduced before realizing there were male and females. These are "baby" sagos which I learned our called pups. (See this site) I loved visiting this site and seeing how you can grow your own Sagos from pups! Unfortunately, it looks like we should have removed our pups earlier this spring. I might try it anyway.


Robin said...

Would it be too facetious of me to say that I was in NO WAY surprised to find out that that sago was a male? Pretty graphic! {Wink-wink!} ....LOL!
Oh! And that picture with the seeds? Omg! They look like they came straight from the Harry Potter set! I expect them to split through the middle and pop out with some strange magical, mythical creature!....LOL!
They are really pretty plants, though. It's too bad we don't have them around here. I like how you have yours trapped within a little border. It really enhances it.

Rhonda said...

Very interesting reading. Thanks for all of the info. I enjoyed learning about the seeds being fertilized. Simk or float, that is one I have never heard of. I have to agree,that one sure does look like a male. *giggles*

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Really cool info. My daughter loves all palms, or palm-looking trees. We can grow them here but it doesn't fit my yard plan. She will have to wait until she moves out to have her palm trees. :)

Or maybe we will just move to Hawaii. By the way, could you email me privately about where you went in Hawaii? Your photos looked great and we are going to be planning a trip to the islands next year....

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Anonymous said...

Hi, we happened upon your post while researching how to differeniate between male and female sagos. Very sadly, we recently lost our pup to sago poisoning, and in the aftermath have been shocked to find out just how toxic these plants are to dogs, cats and people, and worse, how few people are aware of it. Please do keep that in mind when in contact with ANY part of these plants.

With care, an older and now wiser pet owner.

Bob said...

my sago has two male cones and a third area that is similar but inactive. Is there a way to share photos and learn more about what, if anything, I need to do?

Dana said...

Alex says hi, Bob. It is pretty common for a male sago to produce two cones. I would love to see a photo of yours and see if I know what the other growth is. You could email it to me at drleeds at sbcglobal dot net. By the way, I just had a second female sago that is producing her first flower! Now we have 2 females in the front yard, two males in the back, and one that is still immature (& it has always been kind of sickly).

Unknown said...

I have a sago palm and he has 2 cones growing not sure about this look weird but interesting

Unknown said...

I have a sago palm and he has 2 cones growing not sure about this look weird but interesting

Dana Leeds said...

Unknown, I have seen quite a few sago's with two cones. It does look odd, but it' evidently not that rare. :)

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