There are many different species of Palm in the Arecaceae family. All are easily recognised as palms by their unique foliage. Foliage is often grouped in either fan-shaped (palmate) or feather-like (pinnate) fronds. Collectively planted, palms are seen to provide a great variety of foliage and form.
Around 40 different species of palms are grown here at the Gardens. They are mainly from cooler temperate areas, but there are some surprising exceptions. Jubaea chilensis, Butia capitata and Washingtonia filifera are all considered threatened in their natural habitat. However, here individually they have found a home. The age of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne combined with a relatively mild climate have allowed some specimens to grow to an enormous size.
Prior to William Guilfoyle assuming office as Director there were no more then 3 or 4 different kinds of palms, now palms have become a distinctive feature of the vegetation in various parts of the Gardens. The Jubaea chilensis, Chilean Wine Palm was transplanted from Adelaide in 1904 and stands on the Western Lawn as an impressive feature, as many enter the Gardens from Observatory gate.
Phoenix canariensis Canary Island Date Palm
This palm is easily recognized through its pinnate leaf and rigid trunk characteristics. They can grow up to 20 metres tall, but usually do not exceed 10 metres. These palms were brought here on the early sailing ships, which stopped at the Canary Islands on their journey to Australia.
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana Bangalow Palm
This graceful tall palm grows in gullies and along creek beds, it requires adequate bright filtered light where humidity and frost are present. It gets to 25 metres tall in a favoured environment with a small spread of 2.5 m. Aborigines used the sheaths at the base of fallen leaves to make carrying vessels.
Livistona australis Cabbage Tree Palm
The Cabbage Tree Palm is Victoria’s only indigenous palm, occurring in Cabbage Tree Creek in east Gippsland. This tall slender palm bears dark glossy fan-shaped (palmate) fronds.
Jubaea chilensis Chilean Wine Palm
This palm is the sole extant species of this genus. It can reach heights of 25 metres with its trunk growing up to 1.3 m in girth, often becoming thicker higher up. It needs mild winters, but will tolerate some frost, making it one of the hardiest of pinnate-leaved palms.
Butia capitata Jelly Palm
This Butia comes from Brazil and bordering Uruguay in South America. It is drought tolerant and can grow successfully in cold climates. Slow growing, they are one of the smaller palms reaching 8 meters. Beautiful bright orange fruits form on these palms, which are edible.
- Monitor for possum damage.
- Mulch around the stem.
- Fusarium Wilt is a fatal disease of palms affecting many different species. The Palm Lawn provides a perfect microclimate which allows for adequate wind movement to help prevent diseases.
- During the second half of the 19th century palms became very popular as landscape plants in Europe and Australia. Many were donated to the Gardens around this time and have been planted to mark special occasions.
- The establishment of the Palm Lawn was a significant step forward for the Gardens. The lawn displayed a diverse range of palms including more exotic species as landscape features. The idea to demonstrate a diversity of palm species has been followed to this day.
The best time to view palms is when their flowers and fruits are borne. For most, this is during summer and autumn.
Palm are best represented on the Western Lawn and the Palm Lawn (GIF - 367 kb).
Cabbage Tree Palm
Canary Island Date Palm
Find out what plants grow at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
Last updated 07 Jul 2010