Clap your palms

A natural treasure in North Shore Park.

click to enlarge WHERE'S SIDESHOW BOB? Biking amongst the anthropomorphic flora at the Palm Arboretum. - Phil Bardi
Phil Bardi
WHERE'S SIDESHOW BOB? Biking amongst the anthropomorphic flora at the Palm Arboretum.

I've driven by the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum hundreds of times, probably looked directly at it, and never even noticed it was there. I mean, I live in Florida — palm trees are a given. But I'm still ashamed to admit that I only discovered the arboretum a few weeks ago even though it's been a part of North Shore Park for more than three decades.

Located between the pool and the tennis courts, the 2-acre space is home to more than 500 palms and cycads representing some 100 species from around the globe. Well-tended swaths of grass and red brick paths lined with benches and drinking fountains meander through rows of tidily arranged and labeled trees, which are maintained by volunteers of the St. Petersburg City Beautiful Commission.

Each palm and cycad possesses its own unique physical characteristics that, paired with the shape of their leaves and fronds, makes it hard to think of them as flora. The Old Man Palm with its wooly fiber trunk is more like Cousin It; the Pineapple Palm bears a striking resemblance to Sideshow Bob; and the King Sago could have performed a starring role in any Star Trek episode dealing with tribbles. I want to hug them all.

Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum is located at North Shore Drive and 10th Avenue N.E. For more information or to schedule a guided tour, call 727-893-7335.

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