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Publication #ENH283

Caryota spp.: Fishtail Palm1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This clump-growing group of palms has medium green leaf blades which are divided into many segments, each of which resembles the tail of a fancy goldfish. Rarely exceeding 25 feet in height, a number of species of fishtail palms produce suckers from the base creating a very attractive specimen palm. Its neat habit makes it ideal for use at poolside, in urns or other containers, and it is often seen in well-lit interiorscapes where its distinct form lends a tropical effect. It can be used as a house plant in large homes with plenty of light.

Figure 1. 

Mature Caryota spp.: Fishtail Palm


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Caryota spp.
Pronunciation: kair-ee-OH-tuh species
Common name(s): Fishtail palm
Family: Arecaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: indoors; specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; screen
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: palm, upright/erect
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: spiral (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: incised
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: reticulate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: unknown
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: not applicable
Current year twig thickness:
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade, shade tolerant
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: low

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Fishtail palms can thrive in light conditions from full sun to deep shade, requiring only that its soil be well-drained and reasonably fertile. It has a moderate to rapid growth rate and should be located outdoors in a sheltered location protected from cold. Unfortunately, the palm is susceptible to lethal yellowing disease. In addition, it is monocarpic so a stem dies after it flowers. This stem must be removed to maintain a neat appearance. There are a variety of other species grown in south Florida nurseries.

Propagation is by seeds or division.

Pests

Red spider mites and scales are serious problems, especially when fishtail palms are used indoors.

Diseases

Lethal yellowing disease.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH283, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.