They are native to a transitional climate in Mexico that experiences frost on occasion but still has a wealth of plants with a tropical background. I would love to do some hardiness research on some of the other plants in the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve since they may have potential for the garden and hybridizing!
Chamaedorea RadicalisIn the first two pictures above, this is known simply as Radicalis palm to those lucky enough to be acquainted to its many charms. Deep green pinnate leaves arise from an underground trunk in most cases, but aerial forms have bamboo like trunks and can gain considerable height. They prefer shade, are hardy to at least 20 degrees with no damage but durable in zone 8 as well, and are versatile when it comes to moisture requirements. I have grown it in flooded soil to no ill effect before deciding to rip them out and try them in a dry spot under the eaves of the house.
Since they come from the chaparral oak forest of Mexico, they can tolerate considerable drought. If you live up north, these make great container plants that can take more cold than most houseplants if left outdoors, so they can be left outside for the majority of the year! Just bring it inside when its under 20 degrees to be on the safe side.
If this wasn't a great enough plant already, bright red berries form on female plants in pendant clusters, brightening up your shady garden and attracting birds. The fronds of Radicalis Palms are even exported from Mexico to the United States for floral arrangements!
Chamaedorea MicrospadixA close cousin of radicalis palm, this one is a must for an Asian look and is a perfect replacement for bamboo where space is an issue. Just as hardy as radicalis palm, this one is definitely the more graceful of the two and lends itself to intimate areas where its berries and bamboo-esque trunks can be appreciated. It is a clumping palm, but isn't so vigorous that it can't be kept in check. The photo on the left was taken at the FSCJ south campus in Jacksonville. These are best grown from fresh seed.
Visit these sites for more info!
Floridata: Chamaedorea Radicalis
Floridata: Chamaedorea Microspadix
Underutilized palms for Central Florida
El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Mexico (This is where these palms grow!)