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The Areca Palm

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The Areca Palm
By Ralph E. Mitchell
Have you ever heard of the Yellow Butterfly Palm or the Bamboo Palm? How about the Areca Palm? They are all the same plant commonly known as the Areca Palm. This beautiful palm can grow up to thirty feet tall in a multiple-trunked clump. The trunk is ringed so that it almost appears to look like bamboo. The Areca Palm is sometimes called the Yellow Butterfly Palm because of the feathery graceful yellow-green fronds. No matter what you call Chrysalidocarpus lutescen, it is a great landscape subject that grows quickly and has many uses.
Areca palms are classic tropical beauties as potted houseplants or as patio or porch containerized specimens. In these varied planting sites, they are adaptable to both full sun and partial shade conditions. In fact, young Arecas will benefit from shaded conditions until they are several feet tall. Consequently, young Arecas in full sun will appear more yellow; especially if the soil pH is high. Old leaves near the bottom of the plant also tend to yellow as a result of potassium deficiency.
Native to Madagascar, the Areca palm is a multi-trunked palm in growth habit. This growth, often compounded by being grown as a multiple seedling cluster, can quickly become stunted and overly dense. Selective thinning of excess canes can open up the plant and make it more attractive. I'm working on a cluster of my own Arecas and am slowly reducing the amount of stems to accentuate their graceful individual trunks.
As an informal screen, Arecas are very suitable for around pools or as a hedge. Planted at four-foot centers, situate Arecas in fertile, well-drained soil that is on the acid side. Feed with a "Palm Special" fertilizer in a slow release form as label directions to provide the proper nutrition levels - especially important in our often sweet alkaline soils.
Arecas are moderately salt-tolerant and also moderately drought-resistant. Other features of this palm include small, inconspicuous whitish-yellow flowers followed by black, non-edible fruit.
While the Areca may be considered by some to be an over-planted palm, it does well in our area, is adaptable, grows quickly, and makes a statement that your yard is tropical. Several years ago I purchased a six-inch potted Areca that was barely a foot tall. Replanted regularly in increasingly larger pots, my plant rapidly grew over the next few years into a fifteen gallon-sized pot. And then it was time to graduate it to the landscape where it has really taken off! For more information on all types of palms for the landscape, please contact our Master Gardeners on the Plant Lifeline at 764-4340 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our office is located at 25550 Harborview Road, Suite 3 in Port Charlotte. Our Plant Clinics are available across the county:

Demonstration Garden every Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m.

Englewood/Charlotte Public Library 9 a.m. to noon every Monday.

Mid County Regional Library first Thursday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.

Monthly Plant Clinics are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the following

locations: Cape Haze Publix first Saturday of the month;

Peachland Promenades Publix ‹ second Saturday of the month;

Home Depot Murdock and Home Depot Punta Gorda the third Saturday of the month

Ralph Mitchell is the county extension director/horticulture agent for the Charlotte County Cooperative Extension Service. You may contact him

by e-mail You may also contact a volunteer

Master Gardener from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at

764-4340 or by e-mail

Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. (2003) Chrysalidocarpus lutesce: Yellow Butterfly Palm. The University of Florida Extension Service/IFAS.

Meerow, A. W. (1992) Betrock's Guide to Landscape Palms. Betrock Information Systems, Inc., Cooper City, Florida, p.32.

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