University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #ENH283

Caryota mitis: Fishtail Palm1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

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. 

Full Form—Caryota mitis: Fishtail Palm


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Caryota mitis

Pronunciation: kair-ee-OH-tuh MIT-iss

Common name(s): Fishtail palm

Family: Arecaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to southeast Asia

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: caution, may be recommended but manage to prevent escape (South); not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North, Central)

Uses: indoors; specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; screen

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

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

Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound

Leaf margin: incised

Leaf shape: obovate; narrowly triangular

Leaf venation: reticulate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 8 feet; secondary leaflets are 6 inches

Leaf color: medium green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Caryota mitis: Fishtail palm


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: purplish

Flower characteristics: not showy; emerges in clusters on 2’ long, branched spikes

Figure 4. 

Fruit—Caryota mitis: Fishtail palm


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: ½ inch

Fruit covering: berry

Fruit color: reddish-black

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Bark: gray, smooth, and covered in leaf sheaths

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: not applicable

Current year twig thickness:

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 5. 

Bark—Caryota mitis: Fishtail palm


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to full shade

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.

Reference

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH283, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; 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.