Hardy Palm and Subtropical Board
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Re: Mystery plants above MD-to-WV rail tunnel - what are they?
I'm not going to venture a guess as to species, but often plants that decide to germinate in less than ideal situations, like those of the plants you are curious about, tend to grow slower and not nearly as large as their luckier-situated brethren. It's a "Bonsai effect" caused by a number of things. In this case, by very limited space for root growth and by other difficulties inherent to that location. These would include the possibility of periodic applications of herbicides by the train company. These would kill weeds, but maybe only set back a tree a little. (And could explain the dead wood seen in your pics.) Also, with the elevated nature of the plant sites and restricted soil profile for the roots, any regional drought would be very difficult for "volunteer" trees in those nooks and crannies. Especially if the rockface was oriented facing south.
So, no matter what species they are, they are not likely to get very much larger than they are right now.
About the only nice thing about winter, botanically, is that it is so much easier to spot interesting BLEs out in the general landscape, and from November to April, my eyes are peeled for unusual sightings on that front. But I digress.
Jim, Wilmington, DE, 7a
Last 30 Years Avg. Winter Low: 7.50F
Last 20 Years Avg. Winter Low: 8.35F
Last 10 Years Avg. Winter Low: 8.40F
Favorite Palms: Species: Phoenix Canariensis / Genus: Sabal