This plant is a Palmetto, a very hardy palm with mostly underground stems. It is a native on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. These palms like to grow in damp soil, so they are usually found on stream banks and in wetland areas.
There are about one and a half acres of inland wetland areas at West 11th Street Park. A casual visitor may come upon one of these wet areas and think: "What a nuisance! I'll bet it breeds mosquitoes. Why doesn't someone drain it or fill it up?"
Largely because of this negative view, the US Environmental Protection Agency reports that “more than half of America's original wetlands have been destroyed—drained and converted to farmland, filled for housing developments and industrial facilities, or used to dispose of household and industrial waste.”
Wetlands are, in fact, valuable natural resources. They help regulate water levels within watersheds; improve water quality; reduce flood and storm damages; provide important fish and wildlife habitat; and support hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.
Wetlands have been called the ‘kidneys” of the ecosystem. As the kidney filters our blood to keep us healthy, the wetland filters and cleans the water as it slowly seeps through the soil and returns to the water table. Local wetlands expert John Jacob has said that our Texas wetlands are as unique and important to our ecosystem as the redwood forests are to California.