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Chrysalidocarpus lutescens: Yellow Butterfly Palm1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson 2


This graceful, clump-growing palm reaches 20 to 30 feet in height with a spread of 8 to 10 feet. The gently arching, 4- to 6-inch-wide, ringed, bamboo-like, green, multiple trunks are topped with curved, feathery, yellow-green fronds. Known under a variety of names, this beautiful soft palm is quite valued throughout the tropics and is widely planted in frost-free areas. The small, white, inconspicuous flowers are produced all year long on 3-foot stalks among the leaves, and the small, oblong, black fruits ripen all year. Yellow butterfly palm makes an attractive specimen, screening, or poolside planting, but it is overused.

Figure 1. Mature Chrysalidocarpus lutescens: Yellow Butterfly Palm
Figure 1.  Mature Chrysalidocarpus lutescens: Yellow Butterfly Palm
Credit: Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
Pronunciation: kriss-al-lid-oh-KAR-pus loo-TESS-enz
Common name(s): Yellow butterfly palm, bamboo palm, areca palm
Family: Arecaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: indoors; deck or patio; screen; specimen; container or planter
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 8 to 10 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: palm, upright/erect, vase
Crown density: open
Growth rate: fast
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: spiral
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 12 to 18 inches, 18 to 36 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


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


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

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; 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


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


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

Use and Management

Growing in full sun where it makes an excellent specimen or screen (on 4-foot centers), to the rather dense shade of patios and porches (or as house plants), yellow butterfly palm prefers fertile, well-drained, acid soil. Small palms benefit from some shade until they are several feet tall, and palms should be watered during periods of drought. They require regular fertilizer applications to maintain a good appearance. Young palms in full sun and those in high pH soils develop yellow leaves. Older leaves on plants of any age become chlorotic, frequently from a deficiency of potassium. Affected leaves are often speckled with bronze or yellow. Yellow butterfly palm is moderately salt-tolerant.

Propagation is by seeds or division.


Scales followed by sooty-mold can be a problem for yellow butterfly palm.


Ganoderma root rot, potassium deficiency on older leaves.


1. This document is ENH324, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed May 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.

Publication #ENH324

Date: 6/9/2014

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