Licuala

Family: Arecaceae

This large genus of over 100 species of palms extends from Southeast Asia to Vanuatu and Australia. Although many are small, under-storey palms, some species grow quite large. The best known feature of some of the most com­monly cultivated species is their large, pleated, almost circular leaves. Many species, however, have deeply divided, ribbed leaf segments with blunt, slightly toothed ends. Trunks may be soli­tary or in clumps and the inflorescences are gen­erally on long, arching stems. The orange or red fruits that form after flowering create a most decorative display. All species require warm con­ditions for optimum growth, and in frost-prone climates they make good pot or tub plants for the warm greenhouse or conservatory, espe­cially those with a clustering habit.

Species

L. grandis, a native of the New Hebrides, grows to only about 3 m (10 ft) high. It has large, pleated, undivided leaves, arranged in several crowded tiers, and crimson fruits. It is one of the most beautiful of all palms, making an outstanding feature in tropical gardens.

L. ramsayi, the Queensland species, is found in swampy, lowland rainforests where it may grow to 15 m (50 ft) tall. It has a pale grayish brown trunk, 15 cm (6 in) diameter, and translucent, fresh green leaves on slender stalks. The circular leaf blades are about 1 m (3 ft) across, the slen­der, arching inflorescence has cream flowers, and the small fruits are orange-red. It grows very slowly when young and is quite difficult to cultivate.

L. spinosa, from Southeast Asia, has densely clumping stems, 6-8 cm (2½-3 in) in diameter, and 3-5 m (10-16 ft) tall. These canes carry spirals of leaves divided into narrow, wedge-shaped segments. The shiny, bright orange fruits are borne on a slender, arching inflorescence, to 3 m (10 ft) long. This species is easily cultivated and makes a good tub plant.

Cultivation

Under glass, grow in pots or tubs of soil-based potting compost, fortified with extra peat and grit. Ensure good light (but shade from direct sun), and a humid atmosphere. Outdoors, grow in partial shade. Propagate in spring from seed or suckers.

Climate

Zone 10, but also warmer parts of zone 9.

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Climate zone map
Libocedrus      Ligularia