Livistona chinensis: Chinese fan palm

Family: Arecaceae
Common name: Chinese fan palm, Fountain palm

Fan palms are hot favorites as indoor and outdoor plants, due to their beautiful foliage and their capability to adapt to different growing conditions. Chinese fan palms belong to the genus Livistona with over 25 species of plants, all of them characterized by their fan-like leaves; and long, thick petioles.

Chinese fan palms can grow to a height of 15 meters, spreading over 4 meters with enormous palmate leaves. The leaves can be 1.5-1.8 meters wide with a long, thick petiole that’s about 1.8 meters long.

The leaves droop down at about two-thirds of its length, with forked tips. The drooping leaves look like fountains, giving the plant the name Fountain palm.

The stems initially look fluffy with remains of the bases of fallen leaves. These later become ring-like scars and then smoother as the tree ages. Chinese fan palms produce an enormous number of flowers which are pale yellow containing both male and female reproductive organs. Pollination is by bees, butterflies, bats and insects.

The fruits about 2 cms wide, and bluish-green in color. Birds and small animals that eat these fruits help in dispersal of the seeds over large areas, one reason why these plants are considered to be invasive species in some states of US.

There are other Livistona species like Livistona speciosa and Livistona jenkinsiana, which look very similar to Livistona chinensis and is often difficult to distinguish.

Most species of palm plants including Chinese fan palms grow well in tropical weather. Though they like sunny, moist weather, they can thrive in partial shade; thus making them good candidates for well-lit interior spaces. Chinese fan palms are grown as ornamental plants in gardens, parks, malls and office spaces. They are drought-tolerant and need very little maintenance once they are established in the soil.

Chinese fan palms are used for making fans, hats, brooms and raincoats. The stems and petioles produce fibers that are used to make ropes.

Propagation is through seeds.

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