Trachycarpus Fortunei: Characteristics, Habitat, Cultivation

Trachycarpus fortunei is a large palm tree species belonging to the Arecaceae family of the Arecales order. Known as excelsa palm, raised palm, garden palm, or windmill palm, it is native to eastern and central China.

It is a cosmopolitan species that is cultivated as an ornamental plant in most regions with a temperate climate. Its presence is common in the countries of the Mediterranean basin due to its resistance to cold weather and tolerance to high temperatures.

Trachycarpus fortunei. Source: Taken by Fanghong [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

This species is a single-trunk palm tree that reaches 12-15 m in height and 15-25 cm in diameter. Its stem is covered by abundant intertwined fibers and foliar remains.

The rigid, webbed leaves have a long, fibrous, dark green petiole. The inflorescences appear in hanging catkins of yellowish tones and more than a meter in length.

Its fruit is a kidney-shaped drupe of bluish-black color covered by a shiny waxy layer. The palm excelsa is a dioecious plant, that is, it presents the flowers of each sex separated in different plants.

The Trachycarpus fortunei species is a medium-slow growing palm that can live for more than 150 years. In its natural habitat it is in danger of extinction because its fruits are the main food source for wildlife.

Its main use is as an ornamental plant, although in certain regions the stem is used as pillars or construction posts. In addition, the fibers are used to make brushes, baskets or mats; the flowers are eaten as vegetables, and the fruits are used as livestock feed. The seeds have medicinal properties.

Article index

  • one

    General characteristics

    • 1.1

      Appearance

    • 1.2

      Leaves

    • 1.3

      flowers

    • 1.4

      Fruit

  • two

    Taxonomy

    • 2.1

      Etymology

    • 2.2

      Synonymy

  • 3

    Habitat and distribution

  • 4

    Culture

    • 4.1

      Reproduction

    • 4.2

      Care

  • 5

    Diseases

    • 5.1

      Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporoides)

    • 5.2

      Pink rot (Gliocladium vermoeseni)

    • 5.3

      Black rot (Ceratocystisparaxa)

    • 5.4

      False rust or charcoal (Graphiola phoenicis)

    • 5.5

      Bud rot (Phytophthora palmivora)

  • 6

    References

General characteristics

Appearance

This species is a straight, fibrous stem palm 12-15 m tall and 20-25 cm in diameter. The stem is characterized by being thinner at the bottom and being covered by the rest of the old and dry leaves.

Along the stem, in addition to the dry pods of the old leaves, there are abundant brown fibers. The main function of these fibers is to protect the palm against frost or snow that occurs in its natural habitat.

Leaves

The palmate and rounded leaves are 50 cm wide by 75 cm long, are of a glossy dark green color with the underside lighter and more opaque. The limbus is divided into straight segments and partially curved at the ends.

The leaves are attached to the stem through a blade 75-90 cm long, longer than the blade. The petiole is usually covered with abundant fibers, has finely serrated margins and is dark green.

Cup of the palm excelsa (Trachycarpus fortunei). Source: Vilallonga [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)]

flowers

It is a dioecious species, so each individual has only male flowers or only female flowers on each foot. Although it is sometimes polygamous, hermaphrodite flowers are found on the same plant along with unisexual, male or female flowers.

The inflorescences are interfoliar, that is, they arise between the leaves, and are arranged in branched panicles, protected by 2-4 yellowish bracts. The panicle is made up of numerous small, fragrant, intense yellow flowers, shorter than the leaves.

Fruit

The fruit is a reniform purplish drupe covered by a glossy waxy varnish. It is usually about 10-12 mm in diameter.

Taxonomy

– Kingdom: Plantae

– Division: Magnoliophyta

– Class: Liliopsida

– Order: Arecales

– Family: Arecaceae

– Subfamily: Coryphoideae

– Tribe: Corypheae

– Subtribe: Thrinacinae

– Genus: Trachycarpus

– Species: Trachycarpus fortunei (Hook.) H. Wendl.

Inflorescences of Trachycarpus fortunei. Source: Drow male [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Etymology

Trachycarpus : the genus name comes from the combination of the Greek words ” trachus ” and ” karpos ” which means rough and fruit. Alluding to the rough surface of its fruit.

fortunei : the specific adjective was named after the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune, who introduced the tea plants from China to India.

Synonymy

Chamaerops fortunei Hook., Bot. Mag. 86: t. 5221 (1860).

Trachycarpus caespitosus Becc., Bull. Soc. Tosc. Ortic., III, 20: 164 (1915).

Trachycarpus wagnerianus Becc., Webbia 5: 70 (1921).

Habitat and distribution

The Trachycarpus fortunei excelsa palm is the most widely cultivated palm in cold-temperate regions around the world. It is a plant with medium growth and great tolerance to low temperatures, it even supports up to -15 ºC.

In some areas, particularly favorable in terms of soil, humidity and temperature, it has come to adapt and develop as a wild crop. Due to its resistance to temperate climates, it is cultivated as an ornamental in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Holland and England, even in Canada and the United States.

It adapts to limestone, fertile, humid and well-drained soils, tolerates strong winds and droughts, and is grown close to the sea. In fact, it is a species that adapts to various environmental conditions, both temperate and tropical climates.

Fruits of Trachycarpus fortunei. Source: pixabay.com

It grows solitary or in small groups from sea level to mountainous areas at 2,500 meters above sea level. It is located in ecosystems of humid mountain forest, oak forest, tropophilic forests or jungles, prairies and temperate scrublands.

Its natural distribution is located in the mountainous regions of India, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and China. As an ornamental it is common in parks in Europe, in the wild it is found in the Ticino alpine region in Switzerland, as well as in North America.

Culture

Reproduction

Propagation is through selected fertile seeds from healthy, productive plants. Despite the high germination percentage, time (3 months) and adequate temperature conditions are required to obtain the first seedlings.

The seed requires a hydration process in warm water for 48 hours in order to activate its biochemical and physiological processes. The sowing is done in seedbeds or polyethylene bags on a substrate in equal parts of river sand and black peat.

It is advisable to disinfect the substrate or apply some type of fungicide to promote germination and prevent the appearance of pathogens. The seeds are placed 2-3 cm deep and 3-5 cm apart, placing in nursery conditions under polyshade.

Germination can take 1-3 months as long as constant humidity and temperature conditions are maintained. The use of warm beds or applying background heat that keeps the temperature between 28-30 ºC, will help to improve the germination percentage.

Stem of Trachycarpus fortunei. Source: I, KENPEI [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

The transplant to the final site is carried out at the beginning of spring, adding a fertile substrate and some type of fertilizer or organic compost. In addition, it is recommended to add a certain amount of rocky material or coarse sand to facilitate the drainage of irrigation water.

Indeed, for transplantation it is recommended to remove a certain amount of soil and replace it with the recommended material. In case of sowing in a pot, a fertile substrate is used, it is located out of drafts and watered 2-3 times a week.

Care

The excelsa palm is a species that is grown in full sun exposure and tolerates freezing climates down to -17 ºC. Of the palms of the genus Trachycarpus , it is the one that best adapts to regions of cool summers and mild winters with temperatures below 10 ºC.

As an ornamental species, it is an imposing plant that requires little care. Despite the fact that its natural environment is located in full sun exposure, it is able to adapt to semi-shaded areas.

It is a species not very suitable for interiors, unless they are located on terraces or near airy and illuminated windows. Although it supports well in cold, during its initial phase of growth it is slightly sensitive, so it is recommended to grow it under a greenhouse.

It adapts to various types of soils as long as they are fertile, porous, and well-draining. Its multiplication by seeds takes approximately 3 months to germinate and it tolerates the transplantation process well.

During the spring and summer seasons it is appropriate to apply a fertilizer formula or some type of organic fertilizer or compost. It does not require pruning, only removing the dry leaves, mainly those that are located directly under the fresh foliage.

It is a species very resistant to the attack of pests and diseases, although it can be affected by the red weevil ( Rhynchophorus ferrugineus ) or the borers ( Paysandisia archon ). The highest incidence of these pests occurs during the warm season, so it is recommended to apply the insecticides chlorpyrifos or imidacloprid alternately.

Trachycarpus fortunei seeds. Source: Philmarin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Diseases

Anthracnose ( Colletotrichum gloeosporoides )

Fungal disease that affects young plants, the symptoms are manifested as oily spots or necrotic lesions of a circular and irregular shape. The spot is surrounded by a brown halo and tiny black spots characteristic of the pathogenic fungus are observed.

Pink rot ( Gliocladium vermoeseni )

Symptoms appear on adult leaves as necrotic spots and rubbery exudates around the spine, causing a chlorotic appearance. The initial attack occurs on the stems close to the ground, usually the leaves wither and dry.

Black rot ( Ceratocystisparaxa )

This disease is characterized by the irregular growth in lateral position of the meristems, causing the curvature of the stipe of the plant. In addition, the young leaves rot, the meristematic region is covered with a dark powder of a soft consistency.

False rust or charcoal ( Graphiola phoenicis )

Symptoms appear as small irregular spots with warty, yellowish-brown pustules. A black dust appears on the spots; when the attack is severe the leaves dry and fall.

Bud rot ( Phytophthora palmivora )

It is a very destructive disease at the seedbed level, the seedlings begin to dry out in the aerial part until they are completely dry. The disease can occur due to wounds caused during transplantation, the incidence being higher in humid and warm environments.

References

  1. McMillan, J. (2008) Trachycarpus fortunei (Hook.) Species Survival Commission. H.Wendl. Recovered at: issg.org
  2. Ortiz, DG, Lumbreras, EL, & ROSELLÓ, H. (2012). The species of the genus Trachycarpus cultivated and / or commercialized in the Valencian Community. Bouteloua 11: 3-18 (XI-2012). ISSN 1988-4257.
  3. Plumed, J., & Costa, M. (2013). The palms: botanical monographs. University of Valencia.
  4. Puccio, P. (2003) © Monaco Nature Encyclopedia. Trachycarpus fortunei. Recovered at: monaconatureencyclopedia.com
  5. Trachycarpus fortunei H.Wendl. (2019) Catalog of Life. Recovered at: gbif.org
  6. Trachycarpus fortunei – JB-93-02 (2018) UMA Botanical Garden. Recovered at: jardinbotanico.uma.es

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