Copernicia macroglossa

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Copernicia (koh-pehr-nee-SEE-ah)
macroglossa (mak-roh-GLOS-ah)
Coper macrogl w-trnkNN.jpg
Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens, Thailand.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Copernicia (koh-pehr-nee-SEE-ah)
macroglossa (mak-roh-GLOS-ah)
Copernicia torreana, Copernicia leoniana
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Cuban petticoat palm

Habitat and Distribution

Copernicia macroglossa is endemic to western, and
"Copernicia macroglossa with Zombia antillarum behind." Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, Cuba. Photo by Jason Schoneman.
central Cuba.


Solitary trunk which grows up to 30 ft (9.1 m) high, and 8 in (20.3 cm) in diameter. This unique palm has erect leaves, that grow in the form of a spiral. The leaves are fan-shaped and arise from the trunk, with almost no petiole (leaf stem). This gives the tree a "skirted" appearance, with the persistent older leaves forming its unique and characteristic "petticoat". The foliage of the petticoat palm produces a canopy about 6-10 ft (1.8-3.1 m) in diameter. A protruding, vertical inflorescence appears in summer. Bears oval black berries, 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.


Will tolerate poor soils, however it responds well to fertilization. It does best in full sun, with hot and humid conditions. Trim the leaves as they fade if you don't care for the petticoat (they can harbor bugs and varmints). This gives the palm a less massive and more graceful look. Moisture: Highly drought tolerant, the petticoat palm also thrives in moist soils with good drainage. Hardiness: USDA Zone: 8b. Many experienced growers are now growing petticoat palm successfully in Zones 8b-9. Propagation: By seeds, which take about two months to germinate.

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Comments and Curiosities

This Cuban native adores full sun and is a truly unique specimen palm. In fact, many growers consider it their favorite. Be careful, petticoat palm may become your center of attention and conversation! This genus of palm trees was named after the famous Polish astronomer Copernicus (1473-1543), who proposed that the Sun was the center of the universe, around which the Earth and all heavenly objects orbited. What a fitting name for a such a special palm that wears a "petticoat," and has become the center of attention and a true favorite of many growers and admirers. The specific part of the name, macroglossa, is from the Greek, meaning large tongue, which is believed to describe the long, wide leaves of the mature petticoat palm.

This Cuban species is a most curious palm. It has large circular leaves that have virtually no leafstalk and that do not drop from the stem after they have served their function. This results in a dense tuft of leaves atop a haystack-like structure under which the stem is hidden away. It is best suited to dry tropical areas and will flourish in full sun. (

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).

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

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