| Syagrus (sih-AHG-ruhs) |
Singapore Botanic Gardens. Photo by Michael
Habitat and distributionSyagrus amara, the Overtop palm is a palm native to the West Indies, making it
Syagrus amara is a solitary palm which grows in the Lesser Antilles in Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, and St. Lucia, making it the only Syagrus species not native to South America. It is grown in the West Indies and elsewhere in the tropics as an ornamental. Altitude range: Below 300 m elevation. Habitat and Ecology: This stately tall palm typically grows in full sun in both dry and wet coastal habitats.
Related to and resembling the Coconut (Cocos), Syagrus amara is a majestic single-trunked monoecious palm with long slender stems to 20 metres tall. It is topped with a bushy head of beautiful shining dark green ascending pinnate-leaves. It is one of the tallest of the Syagrus and was previously placed in the genus Rhyticocos. The only comparable palm in the area is the coconut (Cocos nucifera), which is easily separated by its leaning stem, lighter foliage with leaflets spreading in the same plane and larger fruits.
Stems: Slender, solitary, reaching in habitat an ultimate height of 15-20 m, ringed and markedly swollen at the base. Bole 10-20 cm diameter. In cultivation these palms grow much larger than in habitat and often forms stem with the typical flare at ground level. Above the flare the stem measures may reach 30 cm in diameter.
Leaves: 12-15, unarmed, large, pinnate and slightly feathery to 3 m long (up to 4 long in cultivation) quite erect and arching only slightly. Leaflets numerous 102-106 per side, stiff, shiny very dark green, rigid, with a strong midrib, irregularly arranged in clusters of 2-3 and spreading in different planes, but the leaf not markedly plumose. As a young palm, this one is quite ornamental in having long, wide un-split leaves (called strap leaves), that eventually split once the palm starts to grow a trunk.
Inflorescences: Emerging from the leaf crown, with about 50 flowering branches and both male flowers (to end) and female (to the base). The woody bract is spoon or boat-shaped. Fruits: Hard-shelled, fairly large and closely resembling miniature Coconuts that hang in clusters just below the crown when ripe, ellipsoid, 5-7 cm long and 3.5 cm diameter, orange. Endosperm ruminate, much like a Beccariophoenix, with a central cavity.
Syagrus amara is a tall slender palm to about 20 m with a crown of pinnate leaves, sometimes similar in appearance to the Coconut palm. Its fruit is presumed inedible.
Syagrus amara is a palm tree up to 20 m in height with the overall look is reminiscent of coconut. It is a majestic palm tree, large, whose aesthetic is exceptional. Its leaves are large, pinnate and slightly feathery. The inflorescences are both male flowers (to end) and female (to the base) that give rise to large ovoid fruits about 6 inches long, resembling small coconut (hence its name Ti local coconut) (From the french).
So far the most tender I have grown are S. vermicularis, at least young specimens. They have been killed out the last 2 winters while other tender species (amara,sancona, pseudococos, stenopetala, etc) have survived. (H.P. Leu Gardens Botanist Eric S.)
It requires a position in full sun, with well drained soil. Fast growing and frost tolerant, similar to its close relative, Syagrus romanzoffiana, the Queen palm.
Syagrus amara is a quite fast growing, frost, and drought tolerant with quite large orange fruits and the crown really looks like a Coconut. Therefore, it is desirable and a good collector palm. It is obviously more cold hardy than a Coconut. It is occasionally used in landscape around the world in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions due to its imposing attractiveness and hardiness. It is easy to grow in a wide variety of conditions. Both drought and frost resistant. People tend to discount the entire genus of Syagrus because of their familiarity with the common Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana). There are several species of Syagrus that are unusual and worth planting Syagrus amara is one of them.
Soil: It is most suited for acidic, well-drained soils comprising clay; loam; sand and shows severe mineral deficiencies on alkaline soil.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements or a slow release fertilizer applied in spring and summer, or according to package directions. Micronutrient deficiencies are a serious problem on soil with a high pH. This disfigures the palm by stunting the young leaves and can kill it. To prevent this problems the palm requires regular preventive applications of manganese and/or iron to help keep the fronds green. If it doesn't get enough Potassium (K), the older leaves in well-drained soils take on a necrotic spotting. Necrosis of the leaflet margins, followed by leaflet tip necrosis will also become apparent. With regular fertilization they never shown any micronutrient deficiencies.
Water Requirements: It tolerates low levels of humidity and summer drought, though it prefers evenly moist but not consistently wet medium. When supplied with adequate moisture and fertilizer it is also fairly fast growing. This palm is very drought tolerant once established. Water young plants for healthy look and fastest growth. Periodic inundation does not harm this palm.
Light: Can take full sun from an early age, but it also does well in part shade with some direct sunlight when young.
Aerosol salt tolerance: It is slightly salt-tolerant and may be grown near the sea protected by dunes or building.
Wind resistance: It endures drying winds.
Hardiness: These palms are some of the hardier palms, tolerating light frosts for short periods, although it will require some protection if cold periods are longer than normal. USDA hardiness zones: (9B-)10 through 11.
Roots: Surface roots are usually not a problem.
Maintenance: The dead fronds are persistent and often require pruning to remove. As the old fronds die, these should be trimmed off and the leaf bases allowed to dry out, but is susceptible to Fusariam Wilt, a fungal disease that is spread by pruning with 'infected' shears/pruners. All those pruning multiple palms are urged to clean the instruments with bleach or something that kills the fungus. Fruit, twigs, or foliage cause significant litter, persistent at the base of the tree.
Uses: It is used in gardening and landscaping in many parts of the world though in sheltered areas it will survive short periods below freezing point. It is not suited to small gardens, due to its eventual large size. The huge bulk of Syagrus amara dwarfs most houses. This palm is very good for adding a tropical feel and used along boulevards, on campuses, lawns and in parks and grouped in trios to form focal points in cityscapes. It is recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway. Seedlings are quite slow, but speed up considerably once they start to trunk. Small specimens are inexpensive and readily available and look great in pots on the patio, near the pool, or in pairs flanking entryways. And thanks to its drought resistance and durability to heat it can thrive in harsh urban conditions. It is not a good indoor palm and gets "top heavy" as a container plant.
Traditional uses: The young leaves were plaited together for thatch. The edible palm heart of Syagrus amara is not eaten in the region though this species was tapped as a source for juice to make wine. The fruits were formerly used to make a fermented drink and the fairly bitter kernels are often eaten by the children. Oil from the kernels was mixed with red pigments from Bixa orellana seeds to make body paints. Pest and disease: Long-term health usually it is not affected by pests even if scale my be a problems. Ganoderma butt rot caused by Ganoderma zonatum can kill it. There is no control for butt rot, only prevention. This palm is not affected by lethal yellowing disease.
Propagation: It is exclusively propagated by seed. Seed is very easy to germinate, and small seedlings carpet the ground under mature specimens.
Comments and Curiosities
The only species of Syagrus not native to the South American continent. It is widely grown in the West Indies as an ornamental.
"One of the tallest of the Syagrus species (60') and the only one not native to south America. This one grows in the Antilles Islands in the Caribbean. This is also one of the least cold hardy Syagrus, growing in So Cal in the warmer areas only, though I have had seedlings for years now in pots in zone 9b against the house that have done well, but still have strap leaves. As a young palm, this one is quite ornamental in having long, wide un-split leaves (called strap leaves), that eventually split once the palm starts to grow a trunk. Not a very fast grower here in So Cal.. not sure about the tropics. Has dark green, plumose leaves with stiff leaflets. Leaves arch only so slightly... isn't hard to tell from other Syagrus." (Geoff Stein)
A stately palm, native to some Islands in the Lesser Antilles, where it grows in coastal areas. It forms a slender, tall, solitary trunk to 20 m (65 ft.) high, topped by a crown of large, spreading leaves with stiff, dark green leaflets. The hard-shelled seeds are fairly large and closely resemble miniature Coconuts that hang in clusters just below the crown when ripe. Before it was sunk into Syagrus, this species formed a genus of its own, Rhyticocos, and indeed, it has some quite unique features such as the ruminate endosperm, much like a Beccariophoenix. It also is the only species of Syagrus not native to the South American continent. It is adaptable and does well in most tropical and subtropical climates and will withstand light freezes. (RPS.com)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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).
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.