Last Sunday I had to get out of the house because of the extremely hot temperatures. It was boiling inside. In an attempt to get some fresh air, I drove over to Balboa Heights which is located beside Ancon Hill. It was a nice change of temperature, with a soft breeze blowing from the North-East. Ahhh… it felt so good!
I have driven many times through Balboa Heights and looked up at the Royal Palm trees surrounding the Gorgas Hospital, but never really saw them. This time I noticed these elegant tropical trees and saw them. Perhaps for the very first time.
Let me stop for a moment and explain about these tall and slender tropical trees. The scientists of the world know this tree as “Oreodoxa Regia”. The name “Oreodoxa” originated from two Greek words that mean “mountain” and “glory” and the word “Regia” means “regal”. The other names of this tree in English are “Mountain Glory”, and “Bottle Palm”.
Commonly known as Royal Palms, the genus was named after Roy Stone, a U.S. Army engineer, in memory of the work he did in road building in Puerto Rico during the capture of the island. It contains some of the most recognizable and commonly cultivated palms in tropical and subtropical regions.
Royal palms are widely planted for decorative purposes throughout their native region, and elsewhere in the tropics and subtropics. They are considered by many to be the most beautiful palm in the world.
With smooth light gray trunks that looks as if they had been cast from concrete resembling cathedral pillars, there is not a more impressive palm with which to line a boulevard. Such is the case of the double row of Royal Palm Trees located at El Prado Boulevard in Balboa.
The Florida Royal Palm (Roystonea elata) is native to the cypress swamps of south Florida. It is disappearing from the wild but nice stands can still be seen at the Royal Palm Visitors Center near Homestead, Florida in the Everglades National Park. The Cuban Royal Palm (Roystonea regia) is native to Cuba where it grows wild, specially in the Province of Santa Clara.
The Florida Royal Palm grows from 50 to 100 feet tall and has a beautiful crown of pinnate leaves sometimes over 20 feet diameter. The gray trunk of the Florida Royal palm develops an elongated bulge that sometimes rises to the middle of the tree.
The grace and beauty of a Royal palm makes it a popular tree along the streets of many cities. Often they are used in the islands of large parking lots or in medians along the highway. Nothing says “tropical” like the majestic Royal palm.
The name says it all, Royal Palm! Truly an aristocrat of the plant kingdom, this palm makes a memorable impression wherever it is grown. Massive and symmetrical with a smoothly sculpted trunk this palm looks almost artificial, like a denizen of an idealized Disney landscape. But it is real and lends a distinctive air to parkways and boulevards all over South Florida and the Caribbean.
When I saw the neat rows of Royal Palm Trees flanking the road of Balboa Heights, I stopped the car and took some pictures. This is how my camera captured these giant pillars of smooth light gray color reaching for the blue sky. Here we go.
Not only did I got a breath of fresh air driving to Balboa Heights that hot Sunday afternoon, but I also got to capture one of the most beautiful tropical trees on this side of the world. Good Day.