Phoenix roebelenii

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Phoenix (FEH-niks)
Photo by fleurone
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phoenix (FEH-niks)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: pinnate
Height: 8-10 ft
Trunk diameter: 4 in
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

China South-Central, Laos, and Vietnam.
Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by Dr. P.S. Green, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Northern Laos (Nam Ou valley), Vietnam (Upper Black R. region near Lai-Chau), and southern China (Xisuangbanna region of Yunnan), most notably along the banks of the R. Mekong. Closely associated with riverside or cliff habitats where it grows as a rheophyte. The rheophytic habit is rare within the palm family (Dransfield 1992). The clustering habit of R roebelenii may help it to survive flooding. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.


The pygmy date palm is one of the most popular small landscape palms in Florida. It is single-stemmed, but is often grown in clumps of 2–4 closely spaced individuals which, when older, give the impression of a multi-stemmed palm (Figure 1). It grows to a height of about 12 ft with a spread of 6–8 ft. The feather-shaped (pinnate) leaves have slender petioles and basal leaflets that are modified into sharp 2–3 inch long spines. The slender, often crooked trunk varies in diameter from 3–6 inches and is covered with distinctive peg-like leaf bases (Figure 2). Older specimens will have a large mass of aerial root initials at the base of the trunk. Cream-colored male and female flowers are found on separate trees (dioecious) in the spring that are followed by small elongated reddish-brown fruits that turn black upon ripening. (Dr. Timothy K. Broschat -

In its natural environment Pygmy Date Palm has a single-trunk, but in cultivation it is usually planted with 3-5 specimens. When planted in clumps, the trunks tend to curve gracefully away from the center of the clump creating an especially attractive arrangement.

The Pygmy Date Palm trunk is covered with old leaf scars and topped with pinnate, or feather like, leaves which grow to about 4ft in length. Leaves are bright green, droopy covered with 4-5 in leaflets that are modified into 2-3 in. sharp spines at the base of the petiole. Be careful while pruning it and keep kids away.

Flowers/Fruits: During spring, the Pygmy Date Palm produces beautiful creamy flowers that are held by 1ft long stalks. The Pygmy Date Palm is dioecious, male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Between september and october, flowers are followed by small dates. It usually has about 10 -13 long fruit clusters hanging below the leaves. Fruits are elliptical, 1/2 inch long and turn red-brown to dark purple when ripe. The date is mostly seed with only a thin layer of fruit. (


Comments and Curiosities

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).

S.C. Barrow, A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). 1998. A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 3 (1998), pp. 513-575.

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

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