Hybrids between different genera of plants are rare (except
in the orchid family.) This palm is a cross between Butia capitata (seed source) and Syagrus romanzoffiana (pollen source.) Hybridizing palms by hand is
a tedious task because the small flowers are borne on huge spikes. Fortunately
for us, Frank and Elaine Lewis of Moultrie Palms in St. Augustine, Florida
are dedicated to this task.
The mule palm received this name because, like a mule, it is
a sterile hybrid. Like many first generation hybrids, mule palms are fairly
uniform in appearance. However, both parent species exhibit some variability
and the hybrids may reflect this. They demonstrate hybrid vigor, especially
when young. Typically, it will grow to over fifteen feet in height with a stout
trunk. Leaves are long and dark green. The leafy crown tends to be fuller than Butia. Mule palms are cold hardy into
the teens F. Hybrids with other species of Butia
and Syagrus exist but, so far, none
rival this particular cross for its combination of beauty and cold hardiness.
Light: full sun
Water: drought tolerant once established, responds well to irrigation
Soil: a well-drained soil, no other special requirements
The mule palm grows throughout Florida but is uncommon. It grows best in a
well-drained soil in full sun.