A tree that existed on earth at the same time as Tyrannosaurus Rex, the sago palm is not an actual member of the palm (Palmae) family. Instead, it belongs to the Cycad species of plants. Bearing fronds and a strong similarity in appearance to palms, this tree matures at an excruciatingly slow rate.
The sago palm is considered to be a slow-grower which, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, denotes a tree that grows less than 13 inches annually. In the case of the sago palm the growth rate is especially slow; it will reach a mature size of as much as 15 feet, but require nearly 50 years to do so. The leaves of the tree grow to a length of 4 to 5 feet with a width of 9 inches.
An ancient tree that has existed since the time of the dinosaurs, the sago palm (Cycas revoluta) will grow fastest when treated to regular, full sunshine like that of its origin in the tropical islands of Japan. However, the leaves of the tree will grow their best when they experience some shade. The sago palm also thrives in subtropical regions like south Florida, Puerto Rico and Georgia. The tree can be either male or female.
The growth rate of sago palms can be reduced by nutritional deficiencies, pestilence and disease. A lack of available nitrogen, potassium, magnesium or manganese in the earth can attack the vigor of the tree, with symptoms including a yellowing or spotting of the palm fronds. Scale insects, mealybugs and spider mites often infest the sago palm, while fungal leaf spots and root rot are diseases that damage its health. Harsh winters and freezing conditions can cause the fronds to scorch.
The extremely slow growth rate of the sago palm makes it especially enticing to thieves who are attracted to mature sago's of significant size. The University of California Cooperative Extension service advises property owners to guard against such theft by placing lengths of rebar into the soil around the trunk of the sago palm. The metal should be placed 2 inches apart and just under the soil line. Eventually, the roots will grab onto the rebar, making the tree much more difficult to move and steal.