Caryota mitis

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Caryota (kahr-ee-OH-tah)
mitis (MEET-iss)
Scientific Classification
Genus: Caryota (kahr-ee-OH-tah)
mitis (MEET-iss)
Caryota sobolifera, Caryota griffithii
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Bi-pinnate
Height: 20 ft/6 m
Trunk diameter: 4 in/10 cm
Sun exposure: Full Sun/Partial shade
Watering: Regular
Soil type: Rich soil
Survivability index
Common names
Burmese fishtail palm, clustering fishtail palm, Rabok/Tukas (Malay}.

Habitat and Distribution

Caryota mitis is native to southeast Asia where it grows as an emergent
palm in tropical rain forests.


This is a clustering species, with many trunks to about 6 m (18 FEET) tall, with bipinnate leaves. Fishtail palms typically form multi-stemmed clusters, up to 25 ft (8 m) high and 12 ft (4 m) wide. Each slender stem is topped with several bipinnate leaves that can reach 9 ft (3 m) in length. The light green leaflets are shaped like a fish's tail fin, hence its common name (see photo below). Like other species in the genus (see C. urens), as well as the related genera Arenga (see A. engleri) and Wallichia, mature plants first begin flowering at the top of the stem. Subsequent flowering proceeds lower and lower down the stem. After the last flowering, the stem dies and should be removed. The clump will survive, however, and continue to produce more stems. Editing by edric.


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Light: Fishtail palm thrives, full sun to part shade, will even tolerate full, but bright shade.

Moisture: This palm needs adequate moisture, but with good drainage.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 9b-10. This palm does well only in the warmest parts of Zone 9. It will tolerate light frosts, but is not hardy.

Propagation: Seeds take 4-6 months to germinate. Fishtail palm can also be propagated by division of clumps and separation of suckers from the parent cluster. The fishtail palm can be used in shrub borders and outdoor container plantings. It tolerates heavy shade and is often used in interior plantings in commercial buildings. It does well in indoor containers. Because it is shallow rooted, it should be planted in an area protected from wind. This palm is perfect for understory planting in woodland areas. The fishtail palm is a tough, easy to grow palm that makes a great houseplant, and is sometimes available from discount store garden centers at a reasonable price.

Comments and Curiosities

This is a monocarpic species.

Avoid contact with the red fruit produced by this palm. It contains oxalic acid which is toxic when ingested, and contact with skin may result in severe chemical burns. In India, an edible starch is extracted from the stem, and the palm heart eaten. Like other palms, it is also tapped for sap which is made into palm sugar or fermented to make toddy. The fuzz from the young leaves are used as tinder to start a fire. The palm is also used in construction. In India, the leaves are used for thatching or woven into household items, the fibres from the leaf sheath are made into rope, and seeds made into beads. However, the fruit and the whole plant can cause severe itching because they contain minute needle-like crystals.

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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