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Publication #ENH-815

Veitchia merrillii: Christmas Palm1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


This stocky, single-trunked palm with stiffly arched, six-foot-long, bright green fronds is noted for the fall and winter appearance of the very showy clusters of glossy, bright red fruits which hang below the leaves at the base of the crown shaft. Reaching 25 feet in height, though often much smaller, Christmas palm has a very neat appearance and is well-suited to use as a patio, terrace, specimen, or framing tree. Unfortunately, the palm is very susceptible to lethal yellowing disease and probably should not be planted. Fortunately, there are other Veitchia resistant to the disease, including Veitchia macdanialsi and Veitchia montgumeryana, but these are much taller palms with thicker trunks.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Veitchia merrillii: Christmas palm


Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Veitchia merrillii
Pronunciation: VEE-chee-uh mer-RILL-ee-eye
Common name(s): Christmas palm, manila palm
Family: Arecaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: indoors; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; specimen; container or planter; sidewalk cutout (tree pit)
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: palm, upright/erect
Crown density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches, 12 to 18 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


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


Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: red
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

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


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


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

Use and Management

Christmas palm should receive some shade while young but will grow in full sun when older on a wide variety of well-drained soils, including limestone soils. Trees should only be used in frost-free areas. Consider substituting one of the Veitchia mentioned above, the carpentaria palm, Ptychosperma macarthurii, or a variety of other palms resistant to lethal yellowing disease.

Propagation is by seed.


Scales can infest and spoil young palms.


It is very susceptible to lethal yellowing disease.



This document is ENH-815, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and 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.