The Florida state tree is the Sabal Palm, also called the Cabbage Palm. The palm has a single trunk and can grow as tall as 70 feet.
But state symbols should capture the essence of the state and for this reason the Sabal Palm is a poor choice—its characteristics do not symbolize much about what makes Florida so unique.
However, there is one tree that towers above all the others because it more accurately represents Florida—the Australian Pine.
Although the Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) is on Florida’s invasive specifies list, I believe it should be removed from that list and proudly declared the “Florida State Tree.” There are at least five reasons the Sabal Palm should be replaced by the Australian Pine.
First, the Australian Pine is an invasive species; introduced into Florida in the 1890s it has proliferated. This, by itself, makes it a strong candidate for state tree.
Like the magnificent tree, people from other states, who originate primarily from New York, New Jersey, and the Midwest, have become Florida’s invasive species to the tune of over 200,000 per year. Like the tree, they have proliferated, spending their Social Security checks on a variety of goods and services.
Second, the tree thrives around beaches. While it cannot grow directly in salt water it grows quite well near the water. This, of course, is also true of the human population of the state where over 76% of the residents of Florida live on or near the beach. Like the Australian Pine, Floridians cannot live in the water, but most thrive close to either the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.
Third, research by eco-nuts also has revealed that the Australian Pine interferes with nesting turtles. This compares perfectly to the single greatest danger to sea turtle nests–the drunken Florida male who revels in his stupidity by digging up turtle nests and bringing the eggs to his girlfriend as a misplaced token of love.
Fourth, as is true of many plants and animals, the Australian Pine goes by different common names. Two of the more interesting names are the “Bull-Oak” and the “She-Oak.” While Florida is not particularly welcoming to transgendered people—remember, it is a Southern state—the Pine challenges us to deal with the issue. After all, if there are transgendered plants in nature then what’s wrong with having transgendered people? Adopting the Australian Pine as our state tree could stimulate a healthy debate about gender identification. In this sense it offers hope for our future political dialogue.
Finally, while the Australian Pine offers the possibility of improving our public dialogue, it also symbolizes the stubborn reality of native Floridians’ resistance to diversity. Australian Pines create a mostly toxic environment which discourages the growth of other plants. Although the vast majority of Florida residents are members of the invasive species, the natives, called “crackers,” are a stubborn lot who resist the diversity represented by the invaders. In a sense, the Australian Pine represents the history of Florida’s cracker culture.
Although there are a number of “Save Our Pines” groups scattered throughout the state, it is time to create a unified movement to not only save the Australian Pine, but to highlight its symbolic value by adopting it as the official state tree–Invasion Rules.