U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Tree
Teyer Palm (common name)
Coccothrinax alta (scientific name)
Also called tyre palm, silver thatch palm, Puerto Rican thatch palm, palma plateada, and palma de abanico, teyer palm is native to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands. Most botanists consider teyer palm a synonym of Coccothrinax barbadensis, silver palm. However, some consider Coccothrinax altato be a valid species on the basis of its shorter, more slender trunk, fewer stamens, and much smaller fruit.
Much of the vegetation on St. John is second-generation growth. Almost the entire island was clear-cut to make way for sugar cane production during the colonial era. Tyre palm is one of the native species remaining on the island and the only native palm. Some experts believe that the teyer palm is the only palm native to all of the Virgin Islands; according to the University of the Virgin Islands, there are 3 palms native to the islands.
While there is no official tree of the U.S. Virgin Islands, teyer palm represents the territory well because of its native status, use, and history. The commemorative quarter representing the U.S. Virgin Islands shows a teyer palm.
This tree is a medium-sized palm with a tall, slender trunk and an open crown of fan-shaped leaves. The leaves, which are green on top and silvery white on the undersides, rotate in the wind, causing beautiful green and white patterns. Dense white flowers bloom in summer. In winter, the tree produces round purple-black fruits.
Height: 6.6-50 ft (2-15.2 m)
Diameter: 2-7 in (5-18 cm)
Bark: smooth and brown, vertical cracks
Seed: round, dark purple, 0.25-3 in (0.5-8 cm) in diameter
Leaves: 8-15 accordion-folded leaves, green on top, silvery white on underside, about 40 in (102 cm) across
This is a relatively fast-growing tree.
Teyer palm grows in tropical climates and thrives in full sun. Mature and established individuals can tolerate temperatures down to 26ºF (-3.3ºC). Juvenile trees need protection during freezing temperatures. Teyer palm is resistant to drought, salt, and wind.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Teyer palm is used as an ornamental tree on streets, driveways, and boulevards.
Homemade brooms are made by drying pieces of the Teyer palm and weaving them tightly around a broomstick. The tree is also used in traditional basketry, fish traps, and roof thatching. The fruit is edible and is used to make jam. Leaf decoctions have been used to treat respirator ailments.
Regeneration is done by seed. Viable teyer palm seeds are reported to germinate in three months or more.
In the wild, teyer palm grows on low hills and slopes in coastal forests and scrub woodlands on moist, well-drained limestone and sandy soils.
The tree has been recorded on Puerto Rico proper, Vieques and Culebra; Saint Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Guana Island, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is common on north-facing, forested hillsides.
Teyer palm is normally found at lower elevations, but grows at up to 1,150 feet (350 m) above sea level.
Click to enlarge an image
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press