Caryota urens: Fishtail palm

Family: Arecaceae
Common name: Fishtail Palm

Yet another beautiful palm tree that you can grow indoors or outdoors, giving your garden a tropical forest ambiance. Fishtail palms can grow to a height of 40-50 feet, and are big plants for indoor spaces. Younger plants can be used in living rooms and offices, before they grow into giants that need a much taller ceiling.

There are over 13 species of Fishtail palms all of them characterized by leaves that look like fish fins, with serrated edges. The shape of the leaves is very unique, asymmetrical and strange, helping you recognize fishtail palms very easily. Between species, there are differences in height of the tree, how the fronds are arranged and how they acclimatize to different weather.

Caryota Urens exudes a sap from its flowers, that is used to make an alcoholic beverage. Hence the plant is also called Toddy fishtail palm.

Fishtail palms are bipinnate, each leaf blade being further sub-divided into leaflets giving it it a fan-like appearance. Fishtail palm flowers also look very interesting, like an upturned mop head with hanging beads. The same plant produces male and female flowers, making pollination and seed-bearing easier.

The seeds are edible, but the fruit around them is toxic with oxalic acid crystals. Fishtail palms are monocarpic, the entire flower-bearing trunk dying after seed-bearing. But the palms can produce small suckers or alternate trunks that can live on, till they flower as well.

Fishtail palm trees need good sunlight, doing well in direct sunlight. So indoor plants have to be kept near sunny windows, and turned occasionally to give equal exposure to all parts of the plant. They are reasonably drought-tolerant and don’t need much fertilization.

Indoors or outdoors, beware of the size that fishtail palms can grow to, before choosing pots or spaces to plant them.

Propagation is from seeds, though they take 6-8 months to germinate. Replanting suckers from parent trees is a more effective method of propagation.

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