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palm trees in canada

Palm Trees in Canada

A row of Windmill Palms in Vancouver

A row of Windmill Palms in Vancouver

Palm Tree's in Canada - They're More Likely Than You Think!

When you think of palm trees, you imagine lush, white sand beaches with crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. You might see a hammock in there somewhere too, with you planted firmly in it enjoying your ideal tropical paradise. Then you're startled back to reality, sitting at your desk, looking out the window at dead, leaf-less trees and torrential rain. It's also grey out, you just want to cry.

Sound like where you live? Very few people get to enjoy that afformentioned tropical paradise on a regular basis. For most of us, grey skies, rain, and dead trees are just a fact of life. It wasn't always like this, though. For you see, back before man decided to build a big floating mass of sticks and logs, we mostly existed near the equator. This meant warm to hot weather, with all the tropical flora one could ever hope for. The fact of the matter is, mankind is not a cold weather species. This is made obvious by our big thick winter coats that we must wear, our full body underwear, and our general disdain for being freezing.

Because we are simply not built to handle the cold in our natural form (that is, butt naked), we tend to long for tropical paradises, because that is where we're from! For most of us, the idea of going back "home" is simply not an option. We live where we live, and that's that. Oh sure, you can go on vacation, but you have to come home sooner or later! So what do you do if you have no choice but to return to the frozen wasteland that is where you live? Make it more appealing! Palm trees are about the best way to do that, for they bring up images of where we originated. Some place warm!

Winter-ready palm trees

Winter-ready palm trees

Bring home... Home.

For most people, palm trees represent warmth, and a general laid-back attitude. And who can blame us? Everyone wants to just take it easy. Palm trees help you do that, even if it's still bitterly cold out, and hasn't stopped raining for three weeks.

Obviously, palm trees are a tropical plant, that benefit wonderfully from tropical temperatures and humiditiy. Very few palms are actually native to North America. Take Southern California for instance. Here is a place that completely embraced the palm tree and everything that it represents. You can't walk down the street in Los Angeles without smashing into a palm, yet only one palm tree is actually native to the area. The California Palm (or Washingtonia filifera) is the sole palm that you could actually find in the Southern California area before the mass importation and planting of palms began.

It's our turn. They've enjoyed their palm tree image for too long! Sure, they have perfect weather for palm trees, and where you live probably doesn't... But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them too!

Vancouver B.C., Canada, isn't exactly what one would call warm for the majority of the year. Sure, the summers are beautiful and warm. But winter... Isn't. Yet despite that, palm trees exist and grow in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. How does a palm tree survive in Vancouvers cold winter temperatures? The Windmill palm.

Very few palms will actually survive, let alone grow in a cold climate. The windmill palm is an exception. If you see a palm tree in Vancouver (and there's a good chance you will, as they're becoming more widespread), there's a good chance it's a Windmill palm. Hardy and completely unafraid of a cold Canadian winter, the Windmill palm will grow and flourish in a cold environment. They can survive temperatures as low as -20, though not for very long.

The Windmill palm is not exactly a stereotypical tropical plant, as it originates out of China. While it may not be a true piece of the tropics, it looks like you'd see it on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. And that's what palms are all about. Why does a palm tree brighten up the surrounding area? It's home. Maybe you were born in some freezing nightmare of a city/provice/state/country. Your ancestors (no, not your grandpa) were not. They was born somewhere much, much more habitable. Like it or not, that great ancestor of yours lives on, jabbing you with a stick every time the skies turn grey, the temperature cold. "Go home!", they're saying. we wish.


The Argument.

Let's face it. There are going to be people who think palm trees are beautiful, and should be planted everywhere possible. There are also going to be people who dislike the look, because they're just as cold as the temperatures they deal with all year long (just kidding). A place like Vancouver can really only pull off the palm tree look if it's sunny out. Otherwise, it just looks like dark, rainy vancouver with a palm tree plopped in the middle of it. Sure, it gets dark and rainy in places where palm trees are natural too, but not for 8 months a year.

So how should palm trees be dealt with? As the Windmill palm demonstrates, a palm tree can grow where it's always cold. But should it really be there in the first place? This author thinks so. Look at Southern California, where only one palm tree is native. There really shouldn't be a million palm trees there, but there are. Why? Because palm trees are great landscaping tools. They create a sense of warmth and well being, even in places were they're not natural. When I go for a walk in Vancouver and pass the palms in the picture at the top of this article, I suddenly feel a little bit warmer. Like I'm not really in cold, rainy Vancouver anymore. When you deal with frigid cold and dark grey weather for most of the year, that little bit of warmth and "hey it's tropical all of a sudden!" sensation can be a great way to change your mood.

It's not Cabo San Lucas or Haiti, but it's as close as I'm going to get for the time being.

An interesting look for a palm tree, don't you think?

An interesting look for a palm tree, don't you think?

Snow And Palm Trees

When you live in a climate like Vancouver, where snow is always going to be a possibility for at least a week or two every year, you'll get some interesting scenery. That photo above, for example, shows a tropical plant covered in, and surrounded by, snow. What do you think? Is it an interesting look? I think it looks beautiful. It takes a lot of guts for a guy to say a snow covered plant is beautiful.

It takes even more guts for a palm tree to survive covered in snow.  And the Windmill palm can do just that.  So do your part and start planting them!  Make your cold locale feel a bit more like... Home.


Brallan on December 18, 2014:

When I first read this, I remembered my Romanian lagnuage teacher telling us that our lagnuage has some very unique words, and in the end, the one she gave as an example is actually the exact meaning of saudade' : dor' used in songs and poetry and so many literature examples up to common speech.What I do like about saudade, is the phonetics (I've heard it a lot in Brazilian soaps back home) I love how Portuguese sounds

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on July 19, 2014:

This year we had a drought in Southern California, and even though the average temperature might be seventy degrees on a given January day, at nights on January we tip down to the low thirties. In usual winters we also get rain, and the palm often have to sit in weather ranging in the high 30-50s. During the summer we average 95 degrees, and we are surrounded by the San Bernardino, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio Mountains, which all get snow. It does snow in the mountains, but I rarely see palms up there. I just wanted to share SoCal is a little bit more diverse than meets the eye. I love reading about palms being imported to Vancover like we have done here. Palms are beautiful, but one drawback is these are homes for rat infestations. I remember one day walking down the street and admiring a lovely palm, and then a rat came crawling down its trunk. That sort of dispelled my idyllic view of admiring palms on that day, but I still love photographing and drawing these.

Cameron on November 15, 2011:

Anna, I am located in NS and have some hardy palms for sale. You can view my ads on Kijiji Halifax.

anna hynick on September 07, 2011:

will a palm tree survive in Nova Scotia, would love to get one that will