Where Are Palm Trees Native?

Have you traveled, seeing palms so many places? Maybe unexpected areas? You looked up in wonder, thinking: where are palm trees native?

The palm family has five sub-families. Evidence shows where palm trees were & are native. Original species from up to 80 million years ago!

Palm trees grow many places where you'd think. Tropical & sub-tropical climates, to areas outside of the tropics. But that doesn't mean they're native to all of those areas.

How can we know where a palm tree originated?

Here at Mission: Palm Trees

Palm lovers can get info needed to ease their palm-related search tasks & worries. Enjoy our informative articles, while having fun finding what you want or need. Without unneeded shoptalk lingo & tiring endless research. We Research For You!

Where Do Palm Trees Come From?

3 Reasons Why Temperature Affects Palm Growth

TEMPERATURE is the true dividing point.

How sensitive a palm is to low temperatures made a difference for where palm trees originally came from. Figured by the lowest temperatures in an area during typical years.

WHY TEMPERATURE? It's because of Palm Tree Structures:

  • Innards made of watery soft plant flesh
  • That squishy tissue can't tolerate frost
  • Palms never developed dormant states

All these conditions relate to where are palm trees native. Their beginnings were mainly in tropical & subtropical areas.

There are Exceptions That You Should Know

A few Hardy Palm Species are limited exceptions. They developed in warmer parts of temperate climates.

Think of the lowest temps reached during the coldest times of the year. If they're regularly & consistently above 32oF/0oC, some species adapted to survive where palm trees are now native. As long as the lower range was short-lived.

ELEVATION COUNTS!

Elevation can change tropical-like areas to temperate, or even near-alpine. With increased altitude. In many areas, the higher you go, the cooler the temps.

So where are palm trees native, growing naturally? And in which parts of the world?

This is How the Palm Tree Story Began

Grove of palm treesPalm Tree Groves Like These Don't Exist Just Anywhere! Have You Seen A Palm Forest Like This?

FOSSIL FINDS

Palm trees left fossil examples. Archeological scientists are confident palms are some of the oldest plants around. Studying fossil evidence, they figured out where native palm trees are originally from.

During the beginnings of the Eocene Epoch, tropical-like humid climates were abundant throughout the earth. That's where palm trees became native. Developing, in so many places.

Many areas now don't support where palms are native. Even no longer existing.

WHEN PALM TREES GREW IN ALASKA!

For example, the Eocene Epoch is the time-frame when palm trees grew in Alaska.

Toward the Eocene's end, ice ages put the earth in a deep-freeze!

More changes in climate over time affected where palm trees natively developed & grew. Eliminating palms from Alaska, and similar climates.

With all of that, then, which areas of our planet earth supported where palm trees are native. In more recent eras, where do palm trees originally come from? Let's see...

poster of native palms

NEW ZEALAND - One Native Palm

Palms originating IN ASIA

SOUTH AMERICA has Native Palm Trees

Also, here are Endemic Palms in NORTH AMERICA

Lots of natives in THE CARIBBEAN

EUROPE has an Endemic Palm

Where are Palms Native IN AFRICA?

AUSTRALIAN Indigenous Palms

Are Palm Trees Native IN MEXCO?

ISLAND NATIVES of the South Pacific & Indian Ocean

Where Are Palm Trees Native
In Unexpected Places?

Why New Zealand Has a Native Palm Tree

The Nīkau palm is the only palm tree that originally sprung up in New Zealand. Its species name is Rhopalostylis sapida. Nīkau is a Maori word describing palm tree leaves.

Most of the country is temperate with warm summers, according to Köppen climate types. Temperatures in winter months, through most areas don't get below freezing.

Nikau Palm trees in New ZealandThe Nīkau Palm Tree is Found on Both North & South & Offshore Islands of New Zealand

Mountainous areas get snowfall. High peaks have snow all or most of the year. You won't see the native New Zealand palm there!

Some say New Zealand has a subtropical climate in upper areas of North Island. You'll know that's not accurate, going by climate science.

How was the Nīkau palm able to natively develop in New Zealand? In lower elevations, their average temperatures are consistently above freezing.

Mt Cook New Zealand with snow on topLate May (autumn) View of Mt. Cook in New Zealand
South Island - NZ's Highest Peak - No Palms Here!

Look at the Native Palm Tree of Europe

The Mediterranean Fan Palm's species name is Chamaerops humilis. People also call it the European Fan Palm or Mediterranean Dwarf Palm. 

WHAT IT PREFERS

When the thermometer dips into freezing temps, it can take it. For a little while. It can't take too much drought, though.

It gets rockin'! Liking poor-type rubbly soil. Preferably in hilly areas.

Imagine being the above pic's photographer! Try to get in all the clumping plants. It spreads like that by growing offshoots. Some plants have multiple trunks.

WHERE IT'S NATIVE

Originating in milder European & northwestern Africa areas. It arose along Mediterranean coasts of Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and on islands. And developed around the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Here are the Palms Trees Native to Africa

This huge continent has many climates. All supporting places where palm trees are native. From hot sand dunes to steamy forest jungles & warm plains.

SOME NATIVE AFRICAN PALMS

These palms are indigenous to various areas of Africa.

  • Borassus Palm - Also called African Fan Palm or Selati Palm or by species name Borassus aethiopum. Look up, as it may get to 72 feet!
  • Lala Palm - Species: Hyphaene coriacea. Full grown, a petite sort, to about 29 feet. 
  1. Locals delightedly find it quite useful.
  • Northern Lala Palm - Hyphaene petersiana, also called Real Fan Palm or Vegetable Ivory Palm. May grow to 59 feet. 
  1. Prefers higher water table turf, like swampy regions and near rivers. Very much a tropics lover.
  • Pondo Coconut Palm Tree - Species: Jubaeopsis caffra. Known as Dwarf Pondoland Palm or Mkambati Palm. Only maxing out about 16 feet. Has fruit like small coconuts.
  • Wild Date Palm - The Phoenix reclinata averages 20 feet. Not straight-up like many dates! It's got multiple upward, curving trunks. Maybe why it's named "wild" - hmmm!

GENUS RAPHIA

26 species are endemic somewhere in Africa. Many have huge palm fronds. Some famed are:

  • Kosi Palm - Raphia australis is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. For construction usages, people just love it.
  • Raffia PalmRaphia ruffia has origins in stream-side areas of Zimbabwe where it feels at home. Also with enormous leaves, and can reach 59 feet.
  • Raphia farinifera - Prefers swampy or riverside areas in many African countries. Reaches about 65 feet high.
  • West African Piassava Palm - Raphia vinifera is also called Bamboo Palm and West African Bass Fibre Palm. What's unique is its oil has "mind-numbing" effects on fish.
  • Bismarck Palm - Bismarckia nobilis is easy-going, sun-loving, & 60ft/18m tall. With massive waxy bluish-green palm fronds are massive.
  • Hurricane Palm - Dictyosperma album gets to 30 feet tall. Nice looking. Nicknamed because of resistant reputation to storm winds. But hot drying winds really irritate it! Even burning the leaves.

Palm Trees Endemic to Asia

Another huge continent. Many historically originated in approximately the southern half. Where it's long been suited for palm tree growth.

NOTABLE ASIAN PALMS

  • Borassus Palm - (Borassus flabellifer) is Cambodia's National Tree, where it's called "Tnaot" in the Khmer language. 
  1. Several common names: Doub Palm, Palmyra Palm, Tal or Tala Palm, Toddy Palm, Wine Palm (several species also use this name!) or Ice Apple.
  2. Impressive! Look up - almost 100 ft. tall!
  • Satake Palm - Named for Toshihiko Satake: Satakentia liukiuensis. This Japanese business owner noted this palm's uniqueness. He brought it loving attention. 
  1. Also called Satakentia Palm, Yaeyama Palm, Yaeyama-yashi, and in Japanese: ヤエヤマヤシ
  2. Native to southernmost Japan's Ryukyu Islands.

DATE PALMS

Known for the fruits, most species are variably edible. Some only for animal feed! Asian Date Palm species:

  • Dwarf Date Palm - Native in the Himalayas - surprisingly! Phoenix acaulis, means trunkless. Another name: Stemless Date Palm. 
  1. As you may imagine, it's quite small. 
  2. Likes elevations to almost 5000 feet in Northern India, Bhutan and Nepal, where it's indigenous.
  • Andaman Island Date Palm - Phoenix andamanensis (Binomial: S.Barrow added to distingush it from a similar one). Somewhat newly discovered in the Andamans, in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Mountain Date PalmPhoenix loureiroi, also called Vuyavuy Palm and Voyavoy Palm. Native through varied terrain of Southern Asia to 4900 feet. 
  1. Two varieties: Loureiroi & pedunculata.
  • Mangrove Date PalmPhoenix paludosa. Get the hint of its growing preference? Swampy! 
  1. Also called Sea Dates. Native in coastal areas of Southeast Asia.
  • Ceylon Date PalmPhoenix pusilla is small. Also called Flour Palm. Native in southern India and Sri Lanka. 
  • Robellini PalmPhoenix roebelenii, aka Pygmy Date Palm and Miniature Date Palm. Original in Southern China to Northern Southeast Asia. 
  1. Attractive, but thorny (watch it!). 
  2. Did you think it was smaller sized? You're right!
  • Cliff Date PalmPhoenix rupicola is endemic to mountainous/hilly cliffs of India & Bhutan. Somewhat endangered, on the "Near-Threatened" List.
  • Silver Date PalmPhoenix sylvestris, native to mid southern Asia. Also called Indian Date, Sugar Date Palm or Wild Date Palm. 
  1. Try fermenting its sap for a hot toddy. It's what locals do!

Native Palm Trees of Australia

Way to the Beach in Port Douglas AustraliaWalking along Palm Lined Macrossan St. to 4-Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Australia

Unique animal & plant species in these large country. We've traveled Australia for months. We love seeing all the palms here.

Nearly the entire place is suitable for growing some type of palm. We wondered while there, if any we saw were indigenous. Went to the Darwin Botanical Garden trying to figure that out. A gorgeous place. Highly recommend it!

NATIVE AUSSIE PALMS

We found a bunch endemic to various Australian climes, particularly tropics & subtropics.

LIVISTONIA

This genus loves warm coastal areas. Numerous species are native to all states/territories except Tasmania. Most are tropical types, but some are "deserty."

THE ENVIRONMENTS LOVED

Dry Sorts - Even though they'd smile with added water, they do well in the dry.

  • Livistonia humilus - Smallest palm of the genus, origins in Northern Territory (NT) eucalyptus bushland plains. 
  1. Doesn't mind lacking water for a time. But do you hear that "ahhhh" from its fronds with the summer wet?!
  • Central Australian Cabbage Palm - Livistonia mariae, an NT native. Plus over eastern & western borders into Queensland & Western Australia (WA).
  • Millstream Palm - Livistonia alfredii comes from far northwestern NT, near the Indian Ocean. 
  1. Liking lots of sun & heat, but can do some cold!

Swampy Palms - Could be in hills or lowlands. But likes mushy grounds.

  • Australian Fan Palm - Livistonia australis, locally called: Fan Palm. Some call it Australian Cabbage Palm. 
  1. Grows in upland or forested boggy areas.

Rain Foresty - Loving the rain, especially many Queensland & NT rainforest areas.

  • Livistonia benthamii does love flatland rain forests. But not too fussy, it's found near swamps & rivers, too. 
  1. It's got a "knobby" look to its trunk. But still looks pretty!

By the Riverside - These species like it near flowing waters.

  • Livistonia lorophylla prefers river valleys. Naturally grew in the Kimberly. It's okay with drought & some cold, too.
  • Livistonia fulva likes tablelands in Queensland. Look for it near springs. The kind that make streams through gullies & into gorges.

MORE PALM TREES NATIVE TO AUSTRALIA

KENTIA PALM - AKA Sentry Palm. Howea forsteriana, named for politician & land squatter, William Forster.

  • Arose natively on low coastal areas of Lord Howe Island off the central Pacific coast. 
  • It likes regular precipitation & can survive momentary frost.

PICCABEAN PALM - Also called Bangalow Palm. Archontophoenix cunninghamiana grows natively, but infrequently, on Australia's central east coast.

  • It prefers drier Mediterranean climates.

ALEXANDER PALM - Known also as Solitaire Palm. Ptychosperma elegans is native to eastern Queensland coastal rainforests. It loves rainy weather & warmth.

  • Wonder if it "wants to be alone...?"

Where Palm Trees Are Native in South America

Much of South America has endemic palm trees. Some of interest:

SEASHORE PALM:

Allagoptera arenaria, clustering palm native to Brazil. Per its name it does like the shore. Originating on coastal dunes, it's adapted to salty ground & air spray.

COSTA RICAN BAMBOO PALM:

The Chamaedorea costaricana, as you thought, originated in Central American. In Costa Rica. It's shrubby, with no main trunk.

PACAYA:

Chamaedorea tepejilote. Origins from Central America extending south to Columbia. Its multiple trunks look similar to bamboo stalks.

CARNAUBA WAX PALM:

Copernicia prunifera has waxy fronds, used commercially. Native to Brazil, it's easily adaptable. 

  • The trunk's twisty swirling leaf base scars give it a delightful unique look. 

QUEEN PALM:

Syagrus romanzoffiana, also called Cocos Plumosa. Endemic from southern Brazil south to Argentina, it's pretty resilient. Reaching about 40 feetup.  Puts out tons of yellow/orange fruit.

JELLY PALM:

AKA Pindo Palm. Butia capitata's indigenous roots are around central inland areas of Argentina, Uruguay, & southern Brazil.

  • Per its nickname, the fruit makes a yummy jelly. Every tried some?

PARLOR PALM:

Native to Central America, this Chamaedorea elegans is also called Neanthe Bella.

  • Small palm, often a potted indoor specimen (you may have guessed!). But caution, as it can irritate skin.

CHILEAN WINE PALM:

Jubaea chilensis, native to Chile. The palm had fearful chills at one time. Was used for sugar & alcohol (hence its wine name).

  • Traditionally when harvested, it was cut down. Becoming endangered, it's now protected in Chile. 
  • Doesn't like weather extremes.
  • Some are living happily in a Queensland Park, as you can see here:

Endemic Palms of North America

USA NATIVE PALM TREES

In the United States, southernmost and southeastern states have native palms. That's North & South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona & New Mexico

All have at least one indigenous species. See some:

FLORIDA

The only state with true tropical areas, has multiple types.

Everglades Palm at a Botanical GardenEverglades Palm: Acoelorrhaphe wrightii
At Mounts Botanical Gardens in FL

HAWAII

Hawaiian native palms are there, for sure. Did you figure that?

  • 24 species of the Pritchardia genus are located amidst 8 different Hawaiian Islands.

COUNTRY OF MEXICO

Diverse native palm trees grow in climates from deserts to rain forests.

Some species are Gaussia maya (Maya Palm) & Brahea edulis (Guadalupe Palm).

MORE PALM TREES NATIVE TO MEXICO

Throughout the Caribbean Islands palm trees are also endemic. Palm tree species native in the Caribbean are:

  • Thrinax morrisii (aka Key Thatch Palm & Peaberry Palm) on limestone/sandy coastal Caribbean beaches
  • Pseudophoenix sargentii (Buccaneer Palm) at varied Caribbean seashore climes. It's easily adaptable.
  • Coccothrinax argentata (Silver Palm) from the Bahamas. Reflective silvery underside leaves remind you of its strength, adapting to what comes its way!
  • Acrocomia aculeata (Macaw Palm) indigenous to Dominica & Martinique. Prefers rocky, unobstructed, dryer areas.
  • Sabal causiarum (Hat Palm) originating in Puerto Rico. What could it be used for? Hmmm!
  • Roystonea regia (Cuban Royal Palm) - Bet you can guess where this palm originated!

South Pacific & Indian Ocean Island Palms

During the Ice Age the South Pacific & Indian Ocean Island areas experienced maximum  temperatures of 32oF (0oC) to -76oF (-60oC). After the ice ages these areas warmed enough to develop indigenous palms. Here are some:

  • Winin Palm - Veitchia winin is native to Vanuatu in the South Pacific. (Watch Survivor? You'll remember this island group.) Pretty adaptable & easy going for many palmy areas. 
  • Dwarf Sugar PalmArenga tremula is native to the Phillippines. This shrubby low palm is happily adaptable.
  • Ivory Cane PalmPinanga kuhlii is native to Java and Sumatra. Out of the rain forest comes this nice looking palm.
  • Lucubensis PalmChrysalidocarpus lucubensis is now called Dypsis lucubensi. It's endemic to Nossi-Bé Island (means Big Island, aka Nosy Be), off northwestern Madagascar. A handsome tree!
  • Triangle PalmNeodypsis decaryi was changed to Dypsis decaryi. It originated in Madagascar. The nickname surely describes its triangular canopy!

You might like these