Banana palms growing in western North Carolina?


I definitely believe climate change is real.

Here where I live, in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina, each summer seems to grow progressively hotter and longer, and each winter has been milder and shorter than the last (not that I mind this personally, since I really can’t stand cold weather).   This fall has felt more like a continuation of summer than fall, and even at night the temperatures are still pretty warm.    It’s also been extremely dry, and the trees, rather than turning colors, are going straight from green to brown to bare (not that the fall colors here, outside of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the trees are chosen for their fall color, are that impressive anyway).   Sometimes I feel like I live in Florida, not the mountains of North Carolina, where the climate should be temperate, not tropical.

I’ve noticed something very strange this year too, something that I’ve never seen before.  Banana palms growing in people’s yards.  Maybe it’s just a new fad, and people are planting them here, but I don’t think it’s just that.   I think the climate has actually changed in the past few years, to a more subtropical (and less temperate) one, making it possible for banana palms to grow here.

I decided to look this up on Google, and found out that there is a such thing as cold hardy banana palms, that can withstand mild winters, even if the temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, as long as the trees are protected.  So although they couldn’t grow in the wild (yet), they could grow and thrive in someone’s yard.


I looked up the climate type for western North Carolina and found out we are a Koppen Cfa climate (humid subtropical!) climate.  Even more shocking was to find out that central to southern New Jersey is also a Cfa climate, making it possible to grow certain types of subtropical plants, including cold hardy banana palms, there too!   I do know that many beaches at the Jersey Shore now have palm trees gracing them, but these trees are removed and taken somewhere else to spend the winters (I have no idea how that would be done) and then returned to New Jersey in late spring.

In general, North Carolina does not have palm trees, although there are many flowering evergreen species (these usually have dark, waxy leaves) here in the mountains, and palmetto trees (not a real palm tree but they are related to palms) growing in the coastal areas (the palmetto is also the state tree of South Carolina).


Palmetto tree.


But this might be changing.   I live 37 miles north of the South Carolina border, and almost as soon as you cross the line into that state, palmettos can be found everywhere.  Banana palms are also common there.  So we’re not far from the cutoff for tropical (or subtropical) types of plants.  But I think the cutoff has moved farther north now, even into the lower mountains.   That would make sense, with climate change being a factor.  I haven’t seen any palmettos here yet, but I wonder if that’s just a matter of time.

If food shortages due to climate change ever become a problem, maybe I’ll plant some banana palms.  Bananas are a fantastic source of nutrients and quick energy.


10 thoughts on “Banana palms growing in western North Carolina?

  1. I’ve noticed when driving between Highlands and Franklin or Dillard (GA) since I first began visiting in the early 80s, that the Kudzu has been slowly climbing the mountains. It is now more than half way up the Cullasaja River gorge.

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    • I have noticed it growing like a blanket over eveyrthing just to the south and east of me. It’s here too, but at least isn’t invading everything, but that could also be because this area is more urban/populated. It’s pretty, but it’s spooky too. In some places it looks like a blanket, covering everything. I know it has no natural enemies (it was imported from China about 100 years ago so isn’t native to this area) and is extremely invasive here, choking trees and killing crops. I call it “vegetable cancer.”

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  2. wasn’t that way when I was in my teens……I went to college in NC, had family there, and family in the blue ridge in Virginia.It was so NOT subtropical!

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  3. Anyone who doesn’t believe in Climate Change is an idiot. They can come on out to SoCal during a Santa Ana wind event, like the one that just ended, and be burned down or blown away in the gusts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seasons do feel different here in Iowa. But it’s hard to discern an exact pattern to it. More than anything else, the normal patterns maybe are disrupted and less predictable.

    One thing that is clear, as measured scientifically, is that the 100th Meridian is moving east. It is the dividing line between the moist and dry regions. And it used to be well to the west of Iowa. Now it is moving into Iowa with increasing drought conditions in western Iowa.

    That is not normal. And it is definitely about climate change. It’s permanent, at least permanent for the foreseeable future for human civilization. This means that, in my lifetime, Iowa might no longer be the best farmland in the world. The new breadbasket of North America might be further east and north, possibly up in Canada.

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    • That’s interesting. I wonder if that has anything to do with something else I read that said that Tornado Alley has moved east as well, and is no longer centered in KS and OK, but has shifted to the midwest south (western TN, AR, and the states around the Gulf.

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        “Tornado Alley has not gotten bigger, but the highest frequency of tornadoes has splintered and shifted farther east and northeast in the last 25 years,” James said.

        Part of the reason for this shift is that the 100th Meridian — a longitudinal line considered to be the separation between the wetter eastern half of the U.S. and the drier western half — has shifted about 140 miles east, James said.

        That line of demarcation has shifted from near Abilene to the western side of Fort Worth, James said.

        “That doesn’t mean there can’t be tornadoes west of this line, but with deeper moisture farther east, the most ideal conditions for tornadoes has moved farther east,” James said. “Moisture can stream farther west and still be the fuel for wicked spring storms all the way back to New Mexico and Colorado. The shift of the 100th Meridian just means it doesn’t happen quite as frequently as it used to.”

        Researchers say the shift eastward is being caused by the creeping of drier, desert air farther eastward in the Plains states. In Tornado Alley, the boundary between dry, desert air and warm, moist Gulf of Mexico air is famously called the Dry Line. That’s where much of the severe weather originates.

        But a recent study by Columbia University substantiates the movement of the so called “100th meridian” (100 degrees longitude) eastward over the past 100 years. Since severe weather forms in moist air, the eastward shift in tornadoes makes sense.

        Gensini told CBS News “it’s not a big jump to say that climate change is causing this shift east. The hypothesis and computer simulations support what we are observing and what we expect in the future.”

        Climate change is projected to make the desert Southwest even drier. And this drier air will continue to move farther into Tornado Alley. At the same time, climate models predict more moisture and severe weather in the Gulf States.

        Gensini said that although “as a scientist, you never want to say never,” there is “no supporting evidence” that the cause for the shift is natural.

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