Warm temperatures revive Southern Utah palm trees

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ST. GEORGE -- The palm trees in Southern Utah are starting to recover from the deep freeze that hit the area in December. Arborists say despite the hard hit, more survived than originally thought.

Local arborist Kevan Jorgensen said it was a tense few months of waiting and wondering how many of the tropical trees would make it through one of the coldest winters in St. George record.

“We were thinking we’d lose about 80 percent of the palm trees, because we’ve never seen this before,” Jorgensen said. “But now that it’s getting about 80 degrees, it’s when the palms start pushing out new growth, we’re only seeing about 10 percent.”

Jorgensen said most of the palms have a low threshold for cold temperatures, so when the sub-zero temperatures set in early in December, they initially thought the casualties would be higher. Certain varieties have proven to have a home in Dixie.

“[The palms have] an area in the top which is called the heart of the palm,” Jorgensen said. “That’s where the life of the palm is. So as long as that’s alive, the tree’s alive.”

The palms aren’t native to St. George. The trees were first introduced by developers to give the area more of a resort feel.

But Jorgensen said the fact that so many did survive shows that palm trees do have a place here, if they’re handled properly.

The comeback is good news for homeowners who planted palms in their yards and worried about the work and cost to replace them.

“It puts a little bit of happiness in your heart because palm trees aren’t cheap,” said homeowner Eric Christiernsson. “They’re a little bit of work to take in and out and the money issue is the main issue.”

Right now the trees look a little funny with just a little growth, but as the temperature heats up, the palms with fill in.