The statue of David is the symbol of the City of Sarasota, but perhaps as iconic to The Ringling is the view of Michelangelo's masterpiece flanked by a group of towering palm trees.
Kevin Greene, Landscape Superintendent at The Ringling, suspects that these trees were part of the original grand opening of the art museum. "They were likely 10 to 20 years old at that time, so all totaled they are approximately 100 years old."
These palms have actually outlived their life expectancy. Over the decades, they have developed cavities in their trunks where birds roosted and water collected, causing the trunks to rot. As they pose a danger to Ringling staff, visitors, and collections, it was decided that four of these palms would come down in early Fall 2017. Greene and his staff will continue inspecting and evaluating the rest of these palms annually to confirm their safety, and those removed will eventually be replanted.
Greene says they are likely Cuban Royal Palms, or Roystonea Regia, which John Ringling used extensively in his real estate ventures throughout Sarasota County. Native to Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, the Cuban Royal can be differentiated from the native Florida variety by a bulge found halfway up the trunk.
"The philosophy behind what we currently plant today is similar to what the Ringlings had when they were responsible for planting the grounds," says Greene. "We both want a lush, tropical landscape. The primary differences between then and today would be we now know more about invasive plant species, pest issues that affect plants, cold tolerances of plants, and we have an increased palette to choose from thanks to hybridization and globalization."