Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld



Family: Arecaceae

Palms will instantly "tropicise" your garden, and there are so many to choose from of different sizes, forms and leaf shapes. Some are solitary (single trunk) and others clumping (multiple trunks).

You can have a native tropical garden by choosing native palm species. The fruits can be useful for birds, too.

Palms are also useful for formal gardens in hot climates. An avenue of evenly-spaced, upright palms can be very impressive. They can also be used to frame an entrance or as feature specimens in garden beds.

The predictable upright growth of solitary palms and the non-woody root systems of make palms are more suitable for tight spaces than most types of woody, broadleaf trees. Nevertheless, the bases can expand quite substantially over time, so do allow sufficient clearance if locating near fences or garden edges. A clump of golden cane palms will take up more space still, even if thinned, yet is likely to be a better choice for suburban yards than very large woody trees.

Golden cane palms are dense enough to plant as a screen. Solitary palms will not provide total screening. What's more, the main leafy part of the trees move up as the tree grows. Nevertheless, this could be better than nothing if space is limited, especially in a situation where a tall building has gone up next door. A row of solitary palms could provide some screening plus a visual distraction - providing something more interesting to look at in the foreground.

Palms tend not to cast a lot of shade and it will move throughout the day. However, there will be some light shade cast. Apart form the practical utility, the patterns of light and shade on the ground will provide interest and soften the whole landscape. For more shade in one spot, try planting a number of palms in a grove.

For more in-depth coverage of palms suitable for South East Queensland gardens, subscribe to Get Results Gardening. It's a weekly mini-magazine in an email newsletter format. Besides plants suitable for the regions it discusses basic gardening technique, trends and design concepts that will be of interest to new and experienced gardeners across Australia. Request a free, no obligation trial today with a simple email. More information at


collection of microscope images of marginal leaflet transections used in the new Key
Some of the microscope images. Credit: Larry R. Noblick CC BY 4.0
Leaves a key to palm ID

Microscopic differences in the edges of leaves could be a useful way to distinguish palms. Comparing sections of the leaf margins of the palm genus Syagrus revealed characteristics distinctive enough to be used in a species identification key. This leaf slicing technique, which is readily done by hand, could be useful for identification when other plant parts (such as flowers) are not available or inconclusive. It may even be applicable to other plant groups. Source: First few millimeters of the leaf margin identify palm species in a new key to Syagrus (June 2017)

Some common landscaping palms

Following is a growing gallery of palms growing in SE Qld landscapes. These may help you ID palms you have growing or give you ideas about what palms to plant and suitable places to plant them.

Golden Cane Palm

Dypsis lutescens = Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
This species hardly needs an introduction. It's very popular in Queensland and is easily recognised in local gardens by its clumping, multi-trunked habit and yellow-orange leaf midribs. Obviously easy to grow in these conditions, but a little boring due to its ubiquity. Can be grown as a screen or trunks can be thinned out for a more open look.
Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens
Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens Golden Cane Palm - Dypsis lutescens

Blue Cane Palm

Dypsis cabadae (=Chrysalidocarpus cabadae)
This multi-stemmed palm is not very common yet, but is gaining in popularity. An alternative to the golden cane palm, but not as fast or as heavily clumping.
Blue Cane Palm Dypsis cabadae  Blue Cane Palm Dypsis cabadae  Blue Cane Palm Dypsis cabadae

Macarthur Palm

Ptychosperma macarthurii
Another clumping species with quite slender trunks.
Ptychosperma macarthurii Ptychosperma macarthurii Ptychosperma macarthurii
Ptychosperma macarthurii

Alexandra Palm

Archontophoenix alexandrae
Also known as Alex palm, Alexander palm. It is now the most common solitary-trunked landscape species cultivated in SE Qld.
archontophoenix_alexandrae archontophoenix_alexandrae archontophoenix_alexandrae
Archontophoenix alexandrae

Bangalow Palm

Archontophoenix cunninghamiana
Similar to Alexandra palm, but with longer leaves that are more arching. The base of the trunk also tends to be less bulbous.
archontophoenix_cunninghamiana archontophoenix_cunninghamiana
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana

Foxtail Palm

Wodyetia bifurcata
A native of north Queensland with fronds that resemble the bushy tail of a fox. The tree has a quite stately appearance.
Wodyetia bifurcata Wodyetia bifurcata
Foxtail Palm, Wodyetia bifurcata

Triangle Palm

Dypsis decaryi
The leaves are arranged around the trunk in a triangular pattern, making this palm easy to spot in landscapes.
Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi
Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi Triangle palm Dypsis decaryi
Triangle Palm, Dypsis decaryi

Bismark Palm

Bismarckia nobilis
Very bold, decorative foliage. The silver-leaved form is the one usually grown. Oam will eventually grow tall, making it harder to appreciate the foliage.
Bismark Palm - Bismarckia nobilis Bismark Palm - Bismarckia nobilis Bismark Palm - Bismarckia nobilis
Bismark Palm, Bismarckia nobilis

Teddy Bear Palm

Dypsis leptocheilos
A tall palm with a furry red-brown crownshaft. Sometimes called redneck palm but should not be confused with the true redneck palm (Dypsis lastelliana)
Teddy bear palm Dypsis leptocheilos Teddy bear palm Dypsis leptocheilos Teddy bear palm Dypsis leptocheilos
Teddy bear palm Dypsis leptocheilos

Redneck Palm

Dypsis lastelliana
Often confused with the teddy bear palm. Crownshaft a more rusty red and said to be slower growing.

Spindle Palm

Hyophorbe verschaffeltii
Hyophorbe verschaffeltii - Spindle palm Hyophorbe verschaffeltii - Spindle palm Hyophorbe verschaffeltii - Spindle palm
Hyophorbe verschaffeltii - Spindle palm Hyophorbe verschaffeltii - Spindle palm
Spindle palm, Hyophorbe verschaffeltii

Bottle Palm

Bottle palm, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis - Bottle palm Hyophorbe lagenicaulis - Bottle palm Hyophorbe lagenicaulis - Bottle palm
Bottle palm, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

Cuban Royal Palm

Roystonea regia
Not photos yet

Pygmy Date Palm

Phoenix roebelinii
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Canary Island Date Palm

Phoenix canariensis
Not a very common palm in SE Qld and becoming even less because of pest problems. Most home gardens are two small, anyway.
Not photos yet


Dates and other edible palm species


Not photos yet

Solitaire Palm

Ptychosperma elegans
Not photos yet


Cyrtostachys renda
For tropical regions only
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Kentia Palm

Howea forsteriana
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The most commonly grown species is the Chinese fan palm Livistona chinensis. It has a fan-type leaf and a solitary trunk
Chinese fan palm - Livistona chinensis Chinese fan palm - Livistona chinensis Chinese fan palm - Livistona chinensis
Chinese fan palm - Livistona chinensis Chinese fan palm - Livistona chinensis
Chinese fan palm. Livistona chinensis


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Older News

New Palms for War Memorial

The 12 Canary Island Date Palms at the Rockhampton War Memorial killed and damaged by Cyclone Marcia are to be replaced. Semi-advanced plants will be used to recreate the formal arrangement encircling the Cenotaph. The memorial is heritage-listed. Source: Work begins on Cenotaph Date Palms (May 2016)

Time running out for Madagascan palms

An assessment of 192 species of palm unique to Madagascar by the International Union for Conservation of Nature reveals a situation that is "truly terrifying". Agriculture, logging, mining and palm heart harvesting are all threats. Even seed collectors are causing devastation because they cut the trees down in the process. These palms are not only important for biodiversity, but are also important to local people for construction and food. Some conservation projects working with communities are underway, but the situation is critical. Some species are down to 30 or fewer individual plants. More information: Madagascar's palms near extinction (October 2012)

Palm Valley not a Gondwana relic
New analysis of central Australia's Palm Valley palms suggests that they aren't the remains of a prehistoric rainforest, but that seeds were brought from the north Aboriginal people as recently as 15,000 years ago. More at the University of Tasmania website: Humans may explain the enigma of outback palms (March 2012)

Maritime technology inspired by palm seed
Seed of the palm Dypsis rivularis have inspired the development of a coating that could replace the toxic anti-fouling paints currentlyused on ship hulls. It was suspected that the seeds, which are dispersed by ocean currents, might prevent marine organisms from colonising them by having a hairy micro-structure that is constantly moving. Initial attempts at an artificial surface mimicking the of the seeds' surface are promising. Source: Specialized seeds can really float your boat (July 2011)

Cabbage palms are not Gondwana survivors
DNA studies from University of Queensland have disproved that Australia's cabbage palms (Livistona spp.) were part of the ancient Gondwanan flora. Instead, it appears that these palms entered Australia after the break-up of Gondwana, probably from South-East Asia. The researchers also found that central Australia's Palm Valley palms are very similar to palms in the north of the Northern Territory, possibly dispersing along water courses that existed at times during the last one or two million years. Source: UQ research finds palm trees may not be native to Australia (July 2010)

New discoveries still being made after 250 years
New species discovered or described by botanists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in its 250th year include 24 species of palms. Twenty of these come from the island of Madagascar, even though less than 10% of the island's original vegetation remains. Read more at the Kew website: Kew botanists discover over 250 new plant species in Kew's 250th year (December 2009)

Bismarkia is a Florida favourite
Celebrating a decade of the "Florida Plants of the Year" program in 2009, the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association (USA) have selected ten Plants of the Decade from previous winners. The range includes Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant) and the the silver form of Bismarckia nobilis (Bismarck Palm). More information at the FNGLA website

Palms trump power lines in Port Douglas
Cairns Regional Council have approved funds to replace the remaining overhead powerlines on Port Douglas Road with underground cables, saving the avenue of 27 African Oil Palms that were threatening power supply. Source: Iconic Palms preserved (May 2009)

A date with history
A Judean date palm has been grown from a seed found in the ruins of Masada, the Jewish fortress that fell to the Romans abround 2000 years ago. Believed to be the oldest seed ever to germinate, the resulting plant has been nicknamed Methuselah. Furthermore, it represents a previously extinct form of date palm, the fruit of which could have properties not present in modern dates. More from the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Researchers Resurrect Extinct Judean Date Palm Tree from 2,000-Year-Old Seed (June, 2008)

New palm discovery on Madagascar
The discovery of a new palm species on Madagascar is making botanical news. The rare and spectacular flowering event which betrayed its exisistence ultimately kills the tree. Read more from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK): New Genus of Self-destructive Palm found in Madagascar and the Human Flower Project: Diversity: Madagascar v. NYC. January 2008

New palm genus discovered
An expedition to the Wondiwoi Mountains of Indonesian New Guinea has revealed to science a new palm genus, Dransfieldia. More information from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew here: New Palm Genus Discovered in Remote Forests of New Guinea (March 2006)

Palms provide evolutionary model
The widely cultivated Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) and another palm from Lord Howe island, the closely related H. belmoreana, have provided an interesting model for biologists investigating how two species could diverge from a common ancestor without geographic separation. Different flowering times appears to be involved in the process. More information from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew here: New Case Study Contributes to Thinking on Origin of Species (February 2006)
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