Spiny palms

Plants have evolved many different defensive strategies over the millenia to enable them to compete for space. Some plants use chemical defenses like poison, sometimes signaled by bright colors, sometimes not. Other plants choose physical defenses against herbivory, like spines:

The spines on the frond of this Cuban petticoat palm (Copernicia macroglossa) are pretty subtle, but presumably effective. To protect its trunk, the tree just covers it completely in a coat of these fronds:

It would be pretty hard for an arboreal browser to get through that armor!

Taking the arms race one step further, this palm (Aiphanes sp.?, based on the sharp, light gray to black spines, flattened at the base) sets up a pretty daunting display of long spines on the trunk:

Those things look sharp!

But that’s a fairly amateur strategy. Here’s a spine that’ll really make you think twice about getting up close and personal with this tree:

I’m not sure what species this tree is, or even that it’s a palm at all. There are many palmlike trees, and the “fronds” don’t look all that palmesque to me. If anyone recognizes this tree, I’d love to find out what it is…

All of these trees are on the Riverwalk at Las Olas waterfront in downtown Fort Lauderdale.