Reprinted with permission from Volume 45(3) 2001 Issue of Palms (formerly Principes),
Journal of the International Palm Society.  This article also available in pdf format

2001 The International Palm Society, all rights reserved

Growth Rates of Palms in Fairchild Tropical Garden

SCOTT ZONA
Fairchild Tropical Garden
11935 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables (Miami),
Florida 33156 USA

AND

KATHERINE MAIDMAN
Fairchild Tropical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables (Miami),
Florida 33156 USA

 

One of questions we are most frequently asked concerning palms is, "How fast do they grow?" Reference books may give relative terms, such as "slow" or "moderately fast," but actual growth rates are seldom reported. Spurred by questions from fellow palm enthusiasts, we present the following growth rate data gathered from seed-grown palms in Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, Florida, USA.


The palms included in our sample were chosen at random, according to accessibility and availability of records. We measured the height of singlestemmed palms from the ground (or the top of the root mass) to the bottom of the sheathing leaf base (where the lowest live leaf attaches to the stem). In other words, neither the crownshaft nor crown was included in height measurements; only the trunk was measured. For certain palms in which the bottom of the leaf base was obscured by dead leaf base fibers (certain Coccothrinax, for example), we visually estimated the position of the base of the lowest live leaf and measured from there. We used a measuring rod graduated in centimeters (Hastings Tools & Equipment, Hastings, Michigan) that telescoped to 750 cm, supplemented with a measuring tape, as needed.  Age was determined from the year in which the seeds were received by Fairchild Tropical Garden. Stem height was divided by the age of the palm to give the growth rate, expressed in cm/yr and rounded to the nearest centimeter.

In interpreting the growth rates given here (Tab. 1), certain caveats apply. First, these rates are lifetime average growth rates. They do not take into account the variation in growth rate over the life of a palm, which may grow quickly as a juvenile but slowly as a reproductive adult. These rates do not take into account the pre-germination period, which may be many months in certain Cocoeae, nor do they account for the establishment phase, during which a seedling palm may form no above-ground stem. Second, these rates are taken from individual palms growing in Miami whose growth rates may not be typical. Palms grown elsewhere may have significantly different growth rates (slower or faster).

Our results (Tab. 1) indicate, not surprisingly, that considerable variation exists in average growth rates. In instances where we measured several individuals from the same seed lot (individuals sharing the same accession numbers but with different letter suffixes Calyptronoma rivalis and Ravenea rivularis, for example), growth rates may vary two-fold or more. The four fastest-growing palms in our sample are Livistona ro b i n s o n i a n a, Carpentaria acuminata, Bentinckia nicobarica and a young P t y c h o s p e rma salomonense. The slowest palms in our sample are two Bahamian accessions of Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. saonae and an individual of Ravenea hildebrandtii. The difference in rates between the slowest and fastest palms is greater than twenty-fold.

Growth rates are governed by the interplay of genetic factors and external factors, such as availability of light, water, nutrients, etc.; however, we are unable to determine which of these factors is the most important in explaining the tremendous variation in our data. Nevertheless, we hope these data will give growers of palms some idea of the growth rates that can be expected for these species and that the data will be useful in making informed planting decisions.

Acknowledgments

We thank Dena Garvue for the use of the measuring rod, and we thank Chuck Hubbuch for reviewing the manuscript and offering useful suggestions.

Table 1. Average growth rates of palms growing in Fairchild Tropical Garden. The growth rate can be converted into inches per year by dividing the figure by 2.54.

Taxon Accession
Number
Height
(cm)
Age
(yr)
Rate
(cm/yr)
Aiphanes minima 70304A 669 30 22
Areca catechu 8334C 558 17 33
Areca catechu var. longicarpa 87299B 276 13 21
Astrocaryum mexicanum 5930A 213 41 5
Bentinckia nicobarica 88107B 536 12 45
Bentinckia nicobarica 83150C 809 17 48
Bismarckia nobilis 73201A 357 27 13
Bismarckia nobilis 68263A 378 32 12
Borassodendron machadonis 581026A 339 42 8
Borassus aethiopum 58152C 744 42 18
Borassus aethiopum 58152D 656 42 16
Brahea armata 70127B 580 30 19
Brahea brandegeei 59679 700 41 17
Brassiophoenix drymophloeoides 68251A 376 32 12
Calyptronoma rivalis 81292A 275 19 14
Calyptronoma rivalis 81292B 141 19 7
Carpentaria acuminata 89213A 567 11 51
Caryota cumingii 77961C 505 23 22
Clinostigma samoense 79218G 461 21 22
Clinostigma samoense 79218J 515 21 25
Coccothrinax argentata 88411A 142 12 12
Coccothrinax argentea 4648B 948 54 18
Coccothrinax argentea 84255B 577 16 36
Coccothrinax barbadensis 59740D 431 41 11
Coccothrinax inaguensis 58650A 281 42 7
Coccothrinax litoralis 58534A 340 42 8
Coccothrinax miraguama ssp. roseocarpa 60798H 504 40 13
Coccothrinax proctorii 59627A 528 41 13
Coccothrinax proctorii 80724B 261 20 13
Coccothrinax proctorii 6220A 159 38 4
Coccothrinax proctorii 6220D 174 38 5
Coccothrinax scoparia 58839B 561 42 13
Coccothrinax spissa 58477A 444 42 11
Copernicia alba 6458B 716 36 20
Copernicia baileyana 6235A 568 38 15
Copernicia curtissii 6912A 265 31 9
Copernicia hospita 60532F 229 40 6
Copernicia hospita 60532H 209 40 5
Copernicia macroglossa 71443E 434 29 15
Copernicia prunifera 60810A 401 40 10
Copernicia yarey 59971A 247 41 6
Copernicia yarey 59971D 241 41 6
Cryosophila stauracantha 8089A 434 20 22
Cryosophila stauracantha 8089B 349 20 17
Cyphophoenix nucele 74344C 253 26 10
Cyrtostachys loriae 81225C 312 19 16
Dictyosperma album var. album 88207B 289 12 24
Dictyosperma album var. aureum 88373A 255 12 21
Drymophloeus litigiosus 73314B 268 26 11
Drymophloeus oliviformis 75453A 216 25 9
Drymophloeus pachycladus 65982D 630 35 18
Drymophloeus subdistichus 75396A 582 25 23
Drymophloeus subdistichus 75396B 813 25 33
Dypsis decaryi 80528B 218 20 11
Gastrococos crispa 661023A 688 34 20
Gastrococos crispa 661023B 693 34 20
Gaussia attenuata 7184E 780 29 27
Gaussia attenuata 79558E 539 21 26
Gaussia princeps 58797F 644 42 15
Gulubia costata 80106A 322 20 16
Gulubia macrospadix 87504A 488 13 38
Heterospathe salomonensis 73480D 318 27 12
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis 581174B 269 42 6
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis 581174C 228 42 5
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis 58687E 280 42 7
Hyophorbe verschaffeltii 72781A 322 28 12
Hyphaene thebaica 58837H 712 42 17
Kentiopsis oliviformis 77146C 409 23 18
Latania loddigesii 75460A 284 25 11
Latania loddigesii 72519A 358 28 13
Licuala grandis 6145B 206 39 5
Livistona benthamii 84294C 339 16 21
Livistona decipiens 82383A 399 18 22
Livistona decipiens 82383B 339 18 15
Livistona decipiens 62207G 795 38 21
Livistona inermis 84233A 215 16 13
Livistona mariae 57787C 873 43 20
Livistona mariae 57787D 795 43 18
Livistona merrillii 80659B 577 20 29
Livistona nitida 84376A 259 16 16
Livistona robinsoniana 8310A 925 17 54
Livistona woodfordii 591028A 545 41 13
Livistona woodfordii 591028B 741 41 18
Normanbya normanbyi 66656B 460 34 14
Normanbya normanbyi 74472C 512 26 20
Orania palindan 85370A 190 15 13
Pseudophoenix lediniana 74393A 287 26 11
Pseudophoenix lediniana 63198A 674 37 18
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. navassana 60171D 697 40 17
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. navassana 60171S 215 40 5
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. navassana 60171U 273 40 7
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. saonae 5880A 103 42 2
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. saonae 5880B 100 42 2
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. saonae var. saonae 60183A 248 40 6
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. sargentii 58872 291 42 7
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. sargentii 591181G 113 41 3
Pseudophoenix sargentii ssp. sargentii 82441A 159 18 9
Pseudophoenix vinifera 81401A 209 19 11
Ptychococcus ledermannianus 75171C 405 25 16
Ptychosperma caryotoides 74263D 346 26 13
Ptychosperma pullenii 81590K 213 19 11
Ptychosperma salomonense 85181A 459 15 31
Ptychosperma salomonense 951038A 227 5 45
Raphia farinifera 66748A 284 34 8
Ravenea rivularis 76985C 510 24 21
Ravenea rivularis 76985D 250 24 10
Ravenea hildebrandtii 61378N 162 39 4
Ravenea hildebrandtii 61378P 91 39 2
Roystonea princeps 66674B 690 34 20
Roystonea princeps 66674D 878 34 26
Roystonea princeps 64563C 722 36 20
Sabal domingensis 67269C 369 33 11
Sabal mauritiiformis 6312C 796 37 22
Sabal palmetto 581008A 263 42 6
Sabal yapa 59492A 235 41 6
Sabal yapa 57690F 259 43 6
Sabal yapa 57690G 204 43 5
Sabal yapa 60458C 325 40 8
Satakentia liukiuensis 68317D 438 32 14
Satakentia liukiuensis 68317E 470 32 15
Satakentia liukiuensis 68317F 499 32 16
Satakentia liukiuensis 68317J 374 32 12
Satakentia liukiuensis 68317M 725 32 23
Schippia concolor 79553B 228 21 11
Schippia concolor 591200D 233 41 6
Schippia concolor 591200F 283 41 7
Schippia concolor 5759A 418 43 10
Siphokentia beguinii 59969C 461 41 11
Syagrus amara 80296E 358 20 18
Syagrus amara 80296L 621 20 31
Syagrus sancona 83132E 393 17 23
Syagrus x costae 62232C 470 38 12
Syagrus x costae 62232D 443 38 12
Syagrus x costae 59940D 271 41 7
Thrinax excelsa 83347B 232 17 14
Thrinax morrisii 58468K 116 42 3
Thrinax radiata 59460A 258 41 6
Thrinax radiata 67383B 282 33 9
Veitchia vitiensis 89204B 246 11 22
Wodyetia bifurcata 8234E 526 18 29

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