When the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory – Pelican Island Audubon Society volunteer class began in the Fall of 1998, the stand of cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto) pictured above was alive. Thank you to Karen Schuster (Class of 2009) for this picture of this stand of now dead cabbage palms between the two wetland cross-over bridges at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area.
Sea level rise likely is the cause. A 1999 University of Florida paper, Sea Level Rise and Forest Retreat, investigated the death of cabbage palms on the west coast of Florida and correlated increased groundwater salinity with increased tidal flooding frequency.
Now, there is too much salt in the soil for cabbage palms to survive. Over the years, larger, low-lying areas of the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area have been flooded for longer and longer periods of time, and sea oxeye daisy (Borrichia frutescens) and other halophytic (salt tolerant) plants have begun to colonize these areas.
Note the cabbage palm fern (Phlebodium aurem) above struggling to survive in a now dead cabbage palm, and enjoy Karen’s photo of a costapalmate cabbage palm fern below …