Trachycarpus fortunei

21 May

Trachycarpus fortunei (08/05/2011, Soho, London)

Trachycarpus fortunei (08/05/2011, Soho, London)

Position: Flourishes in full sun to partial shade.

Soil: Moist but well drained.

Flowering period: Early summer.

Eventual Height: 20m

Eventual Spread: 2.5m

Hardiness: 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a

Family: Arecaceae

Trachycarpus fortunei is an evergreen palm with an unbranched single stemmed habit. Its trunk is covered with persistent leaf bases clasping the stem as layers of coarse fibrous material. It has a head of fan shaped, dark green leaves that are up to 75cm long composed of pointed, lobe segments. Small yellow flowers are borne in large pendant panicles that emerge from the leaf base. Trachycarpus fortunei is a dioecious, having separate male and female plants. An impressive inflorescence is produced in late spring followed by small black spherical fruits on the female plant only.

Trachycarpus fortunei flower (08/05/2011, London)

Trachycarpus fortunei flower (08/05/2011, Soho London)

Trachycarpus fortunei is commonly known as Chusan Palm, Windmill Palm or Chinese Windmill Palm. The common name Chusan Palm is named after an island called Zhoushan, which was previously known as Chusan where Robert Fortune first saw them cultivated. It has been so cultivated in China and Japan that its original range is impossible to distinguish. It was introduced to the west in 1839 by Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius who wrongly described it as a member of the Chamaerops genus due to confusion with its Asian common name.

The etymological root of the binomial name Trachycarpus is derived from the Greek trachus meaning rough, and karpus meaning ‘a fruit’, due to the fruit of some species being hairy. Fortunei is from the plant hunter Robert Fortune name.

Trachycarpus fortunei Fibrous Stem (08/05/2011, Soho, London)

Trachycarpus fortunei Fibrous Stem (08/05/2011, Soho, London)

The landscape architect may find Trachycarpus fortunei is useful as an extremely hardy palm; it has been successfully grown in much of Scotland and has been noted to survive as far north as Alaska. It is also tolerant of mild, wet winters and salty, coastal weather. A popular cultivar of this species is T. fortunei ‘Nanus’; it has a short almost non-existent trunk and smaller stiffer leaf blades.

Ecologically, Trachycarpus fortunei will attract pollinating insects such as bees that will feed on its nectar.

The Royal Horticultural Society have given Trachycarpus fortunei their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Trachycarpus fortunei Smooth Bark (19/09/2015, Kew gardens, London)

Trachycarpus fortunei Smooth Bark (19/09/2015, Kew gardens, London)

Trachycarpus fortunei is happy at most pH levels and the soil may be chalk, loam or sand. It may be placed in a sheltered or exposed location but will not thrive in a north facing position.

Trachycarpus fortunei requires little care, old dying leaves may be removed from the trunk.

Davis Landscape Architecture

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One Response to “Trachycarpus fortunei”

  1. Louie Stone 09/04/2012 at 06:35 #

    I love this palm tree for its hardiness. The one in my back garden has grown from a seedling in 1994 to a 2.5 meter tree now. It has survived winter lows of -20º C, although I usually throw a towel over it during the coldest nights. I live about 100 km from the sea, so not to much salty weather here.

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