Palm Tree Species

Thinking through over 2,500 palm tree species can seem overwhelming! Palms are popular choices for outdoor landscaping. Or for potting to bring a tropical touch to your indoor environment. But many of us wonder: which is the right one to choose for our needs?

Or maybe you're just curious about palms that are unique, or have a special decorative look. There are palms like that. Perhaps you'd like to know about particular types of palms, some that have interesting ways of growing.

Let's look at the varied species of palms & how it all works.

We'll break it down, as we're palm enthusiasts ourselves. Always learning more, visiting palm groves, botanical gardens, reading palm tree books, reading the latest of various Organization's Palm Tree newsletters.

Seeing what's new. To get it out there for you. Keep scrolling along, or choose your topic:

Introduction to Palm Tree Species

Thinking of palm trees brings a certain picture, or esthetic vision, to most people's minds. Known for tall, slender trunks & their striking leaves.

Yet, they're a more diverse group of plants than that. Found in many different parts of the world, with varied climates. Even though they're associated with the tropics. 

Want to learn more about these fascinating plants? Our guide gives you info that will be interesting & often entrancing! Let's get started.

dusk arriving to a tropical island

Palm Tips, Exclusives, (+ Freebies!) Fun & More at: LIFE AMID THE PALMS


Palm trees are classified in the plant family Arecaceae. They're defined by branchless stems (trunks), with large, unmistakably looking leaves. Their trunk is woody looking, yet it doesn't have bark.

They're not exactly a typical tree classification, as compared with oaks, maples, etc. They actually have more similarities to grasses, rice & corn.

Comparing Palms to Grass

Taxonomic Rank comparing palm trees to grass

Palm trees are evergreen monocots.

Palms Typically Grow from seeds, develop flowers which give way to Palm Fruit.

These are some methods for identification:

Palm tree species come in all shapes & sizes. Some are pretty small, even only getting to about 6 ft. (1.8m) tall. Others grow up to 100 ft. (30m). 

Other ID practices are figuring the types & numbers of fronds, methods for growing, & specific characteristics.

For instance, asking: does this palm have a crownshaft?


Species of palm trees have a Rich Cultural Meaning, now & in history, throughout the world. Particularly in the tropics. Many cultures use their fruit, as table food or many times as animal feed. Middle Eastern countries, in particular have deep cultural implications regarding palm tree species. 

Since they're often associated with tropical climates, they evoke Palmy Beach Sunsets in travel plans, art or memories!

Sunset in Georgia at Cumberland Island National SeashoreLiking this Georgia Sunset Memory!


Some species of palms are well-known, such as the coconut palm. Most are only known by their common names. Other palms are unsung, but quite fascinating. And may not have common names! Sadly, some palm species are endangered, others have become extinct.

We'll guide you to some of the unique, the humble, the popularly common & the weird! Likely some palm tree species you may not have heard of before.

Review Varied Palm Tree Species

Palm tree species can be categorized several ways.


Think of the way palms grow to organize which species they are. Two most common methods are Solitary and Clumping.

Solitary Palms

Probably the type that initially comes to mind for palm trees. They grow on a single trunk, with no branching. The leaves/fronds grow right out from the top of the trunk. 

  • Most get by with minimal maintenance when established.
  • Except they're more vulnerable to damage from high winds, such as with hurricanes.
  • They succeed in multiple types of climates.
beach with palm trees and chairs for relaxing

Clumping Palms

They grow in clusters. Meaning these palm tree species have multiple trunks growing from the single original base. And then spreading further with newer trunks.

  • They're popular since they have a lush appearance.
  • Maintenance might include pruning to ensure better growth to prevent overcrowding.
  • Most of them prefer warm, humid climates.
Licuala spinosa palm tree species watercolor from 1878The Licuala spinosa palm tree species
A Clumping Palm

Organizing Palms by Types of Leaves

Palm species have two basic types of fronds, though there are some subcategories. But knowing these is basic to Palm Tree Identification:

Example of pinnate frond and palmate frond

Difference Between Pinnate and Palmate Fronds

  • Pinnate Fronds - Commonly called Feather Palms. You know why! Their leaves remind you of large green feathers. 
  1. Many small leaflets grow along a stem. Giving them a delicate, graceful look.
  • Palmate Fronds - Commonly called Fan Palms. Their fronds are typically fan-shaped & quite large. Even up to 10 feet across!
  1. Their look is also reminiscent of your fingers spread out from the palm of your hand. Which is how they're officially named.
  2. Most thrive in a variety of climate zones.
  3. Gardeners around the world love their look for landscaping projects.

Pinnate Palm Tree Species

Areca Palms

A genus category of areca palm plants. It has approximately sixty species of palms. All  of them with crownshafts. They also have the feathery pinnate fronds.

Areca guppyana

Native to New Guinea & Solomon Island rainforests. Rarely grown as an ornamental palm, though locally used in place of the Betal Nut, as a substitute. 

  • As seen here, its narrow trunk is supported by stilt roots.

Areca ridleyana

Beautifully small ornamental stunner.

  • Endemic to Malaysian rainforest hills, growing beneath taller plants. Thus needs shady areas.
  • Red fruits grow from flowers off the striped crownshaft.
Young Areca ridleyana palm in forest undergrowth

Dypsis lutescens

Although this is called an Areca Palm, it's actually not in the Areca genus as you can see with the genus name: Dypsis. It's also known as Golden Cane palm tree & Butterfly Palm. 

  • But like Areca palms, they also have pinnate leaves & a crownshaft. 
  • It can reach 40' tall. Yet, some are potted for indoors when young.

Calamus muelleri

Native to Eastern Queensland & New South Wales Rainforests. Locally called Southern Lawyer Cane. Also called Wait-A-While.

  • It's a clustering palm, but grows via the climbing method. As do most of the Calamus genera of palm tree species. Meaning they climb up forest vegetation, like a vine.
  • They're armed with spines, attaching to plants to reach upward canopies.
  • The muelleri is probably the most cold-hardy of all the Calami rattans.

Chamaedorea elegans

Common names are Neanthe Bella or Parlor Palm Tree. Did you think it's a good inside plant? You're right! Probably the most popular palm tree species for potting. It tolerates shady spots well.

  • Grows upright inflorescences with small yellow flowers. That adds to its attraction.
  • Some use it outdoors as a tall groundcover!
Vintage watercolor artwork of the Chamaedora elegans PalmVintage Artwork from 1878

Chamaedorea radicalis

Sometimes called the Mexican Parlor Palm or Hardy Parlour Palm. 

  • Endemic to oak forest foothill climes of northeastern Mexico. Helping it get that hardy endurance. Known for survival in Zones 8-11.
  • Primarily a seemingly trunkless palm, with its stem beneath the earth. Can be used as ground cover. 
  • Sometimes it's solitary.

Cocos nucifera v. Malayan Dwarf

Commonly called Dwarf Coconut Palm, Malayan Dwarf Coconut Palm or Pygmy Coconut. Hardy to Zones 10b-11.

  • Coconut fruits are edible, getting up to 12" diameter.
  • The Malayan strain of the Coconut Palm Tree was developed to be resistant to lethal yellowing disease.

Cyrtostachys renda

Known as Lipstick Palm, Sealing Wax Palm, Maharajah Palm & Pinang Rajah. 

  • A colorful contrast makes this a brilliant palm tree species specimen. The fronds' petioles, bases & crownshaft are a dazzling glossy red. Feathery stiff leaflets are dark green offsetting against the stems.
  • Natural to swampy areas of southeast Asia.
  • Not the easiest to grow outdoors. Needs much water & tropical warmth. Easiest growing: potted as an Indoor Palm.

Dypsis decaryi

Known as the Triangle Palm. You'll discover why, because of the eye-catching triangular shape of its bright green fronds.

  • Native to Madagascar's drier forest hills.
  • Its trunk also has a distinctive rough texture. Covered with closely spaced grayish-brown old leaf bases.
  • A popular landscaping palm in warm climates.
The Uniquely Shaped Triangle PalmWe Think You Now Know How it Got That Common Name!

Elaeis guineensis

 Called the African Palm Tree or African Oil Palm.

  • Even though 25 feet tall, it's massive because the crown goes high & low! The fronds become 15' long with 3-5' leaflets.
Vintage Ink Rendering of African Oil Palm TreeVintage Palm Tree Artwork
Elaeis guineensis, the African Oil Palm growing in Homestead FloridaAfrican Oil Palm "immigrant" in Florida!

Fishtail Palm Tree

12 palm tree species take in this genus description. Described by their bipinnate leaflets that resemble (to varying degrees) a fish's tail.

Caryota mitis: It's the ONE called the Fishtail Palm.

  • Crams thickly out to 15' wide in clusters. With slender stems growing to 30' tall.
  • Its leaflets are quite handsome, typical of the fishtail style.
  • Grows relatively quickly, but needs regular watering. After all, its native to Southeast Asia & other nearby islands & countries.

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

Called the Bottle Palm or Belly Palm. Small, unique palm species native to Indian Ocean's Mascarenes, east of Madagascar.

  • Distinctive shape very noticeable at the trunk's bottom. Reminding you of a bottle or a beer belly! 
  • Only gets about 10 feet max. Tiny white flowers bring small, red fruits.
  • Has become so popular as an ornamental, sadly this handsome species is natively endangered. Because of trade sourcing from over-harvesting, plus natural habitat loss.

Hyophorbe verschaffeltii

Commonly called a Spindle Palm or Spindle Bottle Palm, with a stand-out appearance. This rare palm tree species is native to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

The smooth, gray trunk is reminiscent of a spindle: narrow at the bottom & top, swelling a bit in between. Above is a vividly green crownshaft.

  • Grows to 20 feet tall. Small red fruit follows the tiny white flowers.
  • It's been a very popular landscape plant. Because of that, is now endangered in the wild.
  • One saving grace is the seeds easily germinate. And it's relatively hardy, yet slow-growing.
Palm tree grove full of Spindle Palms

Ravenea rivularis

 Mostly called Majesty Palm Trees, or Majestic Palm. 

  • Loves water & warmth! Because it's endemic to swamps & riversides of Madagascar. 
  • Making it a practical palm for container growing indoors, where it gets window sun part of the day. 
  • But it's a fast grower & will get pretty tall!


About 12 palm tree species in this category. They're all native to the Caribbean.

Roystonea regia

Cuban Royal Palm, or the iconically named Royal Palm.

  • Solitary growth gets pretty quickly to 100 feet tall.
  • Very light gray trunk's base is somewhat thicker than the upward circumference. Ending in a dark green tapering crownshaft. 
  • Shoots tall inflorescences upwards, looking very impressive.

Syagrus romanzoffiana

Queen Palm Trees natively grew in eastern South America.

  • Their solitary style can get them up to 90' tall quite quickly! 
  • Typically like Zones 9-11 best, with good sun & lots of watering. 
  • Even grows easily from seed.

Palmate Palm Tree Species

Bismarckia nobilis

The popular, Bismarck Palm Tree is loved for the huge, silver-blue fan fronds. Endemic to Madagascar. Named for Germany's 1st chancellor, Ottovon Bismarck.

  • Its impressive trunk gets up to 18" thick. Patterned with grayish-brown diamond-shaped leaf scars. 
  • Warm climate (9b-11 Zones) Landscaping Planning often makes use of this palm tree species.
  • Grows pretty quickly, & when established is relatively drought tolerant.

Brahea decumbens

Called the Mexican Dwarf Blue Palm or Sierra Madre Palm, since it's native to scrubby areas of Northeastern Mexico.

  • Clustering growth in a "recumbent" manner, usually slowly sliding along the ground. 
  • Its Palm Tree Species Fruits will remind you of olives. But they're not! Loves the sun, but not much water. Makes a nice groundcover, though tall for that, if allowing it to get to its 8 foot max.

Chamaerops humilis

Goes by European Fan Palm Tree or Mediterranean Fan Palm.

  • Usually grows by clustering, spreading to 30 feet. Maxes about 20' high. 
  • Can survive Zones 8-11. Not fussy outdoors, except doesn't like wet/humidity.
Chamaerops humilis or the Mediterranean Fan Palm by itself in a grassy areaThis Palm is Fairly Cold Hardy
Doesn't Want Much Rain Either!

Livistona chinensis

The Chinese Fan Palm has fetching weepy styled segment tips to the fronds. 

  • It's relatively short, slow growing, but easily managed. 
  • Can range from tropics to temperate areas (with watchfulness). 
  • The Livistona chinensis species is actually native to Japan, but also Taiwan.

Rhapis excelsa

Common names are Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm or Tall Lady Palm. 

  • Naturally clustering out to 12' & get's 12' tall. Fronds grow thickly from almost the trunk's bottom. 
  • It's known as an excellent potted palm.
  • Outdoors it's easily managed uniquely as a palmy hedge, too!

Washingtonia robusta

Multiple common names are the Mexican Palm Tree, Washington Palm, Mexican Fan Palm & Skyduster.

  • Popular tall palm species for outdoor street & city landscapes in the Southwest. 
  • Native to canyon washes & springs of Sonora & Baja California, Mexico.

Some make the comparison of Washingtonia filifera vs robusta. The filifera is native to similar landscapes, but endemic to Southern California, Western Arizona & Baja California. And gets by with less water.

Compare the Look of Washingtonia filifera vs robusta

One of the species of the Washingtonia genus of palms.Filifera Arranged in 3s - Just Right!

Takeaways for palm tree species

Have you noticed there are a number of ways to categorize palm tree species? Knowing how that's done can help you decide on a suitable palm to grow yourself. It also can help with beginning to know palm identification.

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