Friday, October 21, 2011

Germinating Fishtail Palm (Caryota urens syn.? Caryota maxima 'Himalaya')

   To be honest, I was hoping to get Caryota mitis.  This is a smaller species that tends to grow in a dense clump.  Unfortunately the supplier was out at the time I ordered so I went with the larger, non-clumping Caryota urens.  I actually find C. urens to be more attractive, I just worry it will be much more difficult to control and will grow too big, too quickly.  Then again I love fast growing plants so I'm not sure why I'm complaining.  It seems to be more widely known as Caryota maxima 'Himalaya' and the alternate name Caryota urens originated in California.

    Although Fishtail Palms can grow to 20 or more metres, in most of the photos I've seen they've been 10m or less.  These plants are interesting in that they're monocarpic.  After flowering, the entire plant dies.  They may grow for a few decades before this happens.  In some cases the stress of a transplant will send mature trees into flower.  I'd expect the earliest the would happen would be 8-10 years, although I can't confirm this.  I've also seen some sources claiming they flower yearly and are not monocarpic.

As far as I can tell, both Caryota urens and Caryota maxima are different species.  Unfortunately in some areas the names are used interchangeably.  I'm not entirely sure what species I have due to the interchangeability of the names.

    This is a relatively easy plant to grow from seed.  Fresh seeds don't need to be soaked or scarified.  I actually received mine already. They seemed a bit dry so I soaked them for three days. Next I rinsed them for about a minute in a solution of vinegar and lemon water to help kill fungus spores. They are currently sitting in a warm location wrapped in moist paper towel in a plastic container. As they sprout I'll plant the seeds about 2cm deep in a sandy seed starting mix.  Room temperature is alright but the seeds can take up to a year to germinate (2 months is expected) and extra heat will help.  It might be good to disinfect the seeds with a fungicide if you have it and use sterile mix.  For long periods like this, rotting is much more of an issue.

    Monday's post is on the Pink Velvet Banana (Musa velutina).


  1. My neighbor across the street has had his fishtail palms at least 10 years, and they are still going strong. When I see him, I will ask him if he knows anything about this.

  2. @Julie thanks, that would be helpful. If he has the clumping variety, it's actually Caryota mitis. They tend to like warmer temperatures though so I'm thinking it's a solitary species.

  3. How well did your seeds germinate and how long did it eventually take?


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