Roystonea oleracea

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Roystonea (roy-ston-EH-ah)
oleracea (oh-leh-rah-SEE-uh)
Roystonea oleracea in fruit mall hilo.jpg
Scientific Classification
Genus: Roystonea (roy-ston-EH-ah)
oleracea (oh-leh-rah-SEE-uh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Imperial Palm, Venezuelan Royal Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Roystonea oleracea is found in Colombia, Guyana, Leeward Is., Mauritius, La Réunion,
Jardim Botãnico rio de Janeiro. Photo by mauroguanandi
Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela, Windward Is. Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, northern Venezuela, and northeastern Colombia. Naturalized in Guyana. Surinam, and French Guiana. A plant of the lowland tropics, it is also grown in the subtropics. Plants are best suited to areas of the tropics with high rainfall. Lowland areas, often in patches of rainforest, in swampy places often in brackish water. Also found in gallery forests in savannah areas that are liable to seasonal inundation, at elevations up to 1,600 metres


Imposing, very stately, up to 30 m tall (100 ft), with light gray, erect, cylindrical trunk up to 22 m (70 ft); leaves in crown at top of stem, 3-5 m long (10-16 ft) with leaflets of about 1 m (3.25 ft) in two horizontal ranks; leafstalks, of about 1.5 m (5 ft), broaden to surround and sheath stem; flowers born in large-stalked panicles revealed when the leaf-sheaths beneath them drop off; abundant blue-violet fruit are small, obovoid, and without stalks; R. oleraceae not to be confused with R. regia; latter very similar with its dark red, but round fruit, and differs from R. oleraceae in having more fruit bunches concurrently; additionally, R. regia tends in younger trees to a more obvious swelling or thickening of the trunk at or near the middle, and so was used by the indigenous Indians for canoe building, hence one of its common names, Boat Palm; also, R. oleraceae has ascending leaves giving the crown a somewhat flat appearance, whereas R. regia has lower-drooping, more feathery leaves, in an almost globose crown. (Dr. Robert A. DeFilipps.)

Caribbean Royal palm is a tall, evergreen, single-stemmed palm tree able to grow from 18 - 40 metres tall. The unbranched stem can be 46 - 66cm in diameter; it is topped by a crown of 16 - 22 leaves. The apical bud is sometimes eaten as a vegetable, even though this leads to the death of the tree. The plant is widely grown as an ornamental and street tree in tropical areas.

Trunk gray, to 40 m tall , 46-66 cm in diam. Leaves 20-22 in the crown, lowest leaves held at or above horizontal; crowns haft about 2 m long; petiole 60-100 cm long, rachis 4-4.6 m long; middle segments 65-94 cm longand 3-4.9 cm wide. Inflorescence about 1.4 m long and 0.7 m wide; prophyll 46.5-53 cm long and 8.8-16 cm wide; peduncular bract about 1.5 m long, widest above 23 the middle, apex caudate; rachillae 16-30 cm long and 1.5-2.8 mm in diam. Staminate flowers white; sepals triangular, 1.4-1.7 mm long and 1.6-2.6 mm wide; petals elliptical to ovate, 3-4.8 mm long and 1.4-2.7 mm wide; stamens 6-8, 4.4-8.8 mm long; filaments awl-shaped, 3-6.9 mm long; anthers 3.5-4.7 mm long, apices recurved; pistillode minute. Pistillate flowers white, 2.5-4.5 per cm; sepals reniform, 1.5-1.8 mm long and 3.3-4.3 mm wide; petals ovate, 2.6-3.4 mm long; staminode 6-lobed, 1.8-2.5 mm long, free for 0.9-1.2 mm; gynoecium 1.8-2.9 mm long and 1.6-2.5 mm in diam. Fruit ellipsoid, gibbous, 12.6-17.6 mm long, 8.2-10.8 mm dorsiventral thickness, and 7.6-10.4 mm wide; epicarp purplish black, stigmatic scar plain; endocarp ellipsoid, 9.8-13.7 mm long, 6.8-7.7 mm dorsiventral thickness, and 6.8-7.7 mm wide; seed ellipsoid, 7.5-10.5 mm long, 4.6-6.1 mm dorsiventral thickness, and 5.1-6.8 mm wide; raphe circular. Eophyll linear-elliptical, short- or exstipitate, weakly costate. (Zona S.)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Contrary to reports in the literature (Bailey, 1935, 1949; McCurrach, 1960; Tomlinson, 1961), the leaf segments of R. oleracea are not arrayed in a single plane or "series." The segments are arrayed in two planes on either side of the rachis. The leaves of the crown typically do not hang much below the horizontal, unlike other species in which the leaves droop and obscure the crownshaft. This characteristic allows one to identify palms of this species from a distance. Roystonea oleracea is also note worthy for its unopened peduncular bract which is strongly clavate with an acuminate tip. Groups of rachillae are undulate, forming wavy curves with amplitudes of 4 cm or more. (Zona S.)/Palmweb.


Much the same as with other Royals, but not as cold hardy as R. regia. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The apical growth bud is cooked and eaten like a cabbage, and has a delicate flavour, An edible starch is obtained from the pith of the stem (this kills the tree). The hard wood has been used to make musical instruments.

"regia and oleracea are easy to tell apart. The ollies are bigger, fatter and faster in every way. They literally grow twice as fast as regias, at least. In the winter, if it's cold enough, the ollies yellow up as soon as the temps fall below about 55F at night." (DoomsDave)

"When they are younger, R.oleracea have broader leaflets than R.regia. The petioles also have a lot of red colouration. These are my observations from local plants here...maybe this variation doesn't occur in other areas with different stock." (Daryl O'Connor)

"I know what I would look for if I were discerning--Regia has a plumose leaf. Oleracea has a bipinate leaf. If the leaflets are growing from more than one plane." (Andrew)

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Zona S.Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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