The toddy palm is a fast growing feather leaf palm that makes a beautiful addition to the landscape. It grows to about 30 ft (9 m) tall with a gray trunk that is decorated with regularly spaced leaf scar rings. Toddy palm resembles a single trunked fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) with which it shares many characteristics, including a leaf shape that resembles the tail fin of a fish. When these palms reach about 20 ft (6 m) in height, they start producing flowers at the top of the trunk, with subsequent flowers produced lower and lower on the trunk. When the lowest flower blooms, the tree dies.
Location Caryota urens is an Asian species that grows naturally from India to Burma and on the island nation of Sri Lanka. It occurs from moist flatlands at sea level, to mountainous rain forests up to 1000 ft (300 m) in altitude.
Culture Light: Toddy palm thrives in full sun to part shade. Moisture: This palm prefers a rich, moist, but well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zone 9 to 10. A mature toddy palm can handle temperatures as low as 26°F (-3°C) without damage, but young palms must be protected from frost. Seeds obtained from populations living at higher altitudes are more cold hardy and more frost resistant. Propagation: Some seeds will germinate in about four months; others may take as long as a year. Keep them warm to hasten germination.
Use this quick growing (but short lived) palm to provide texture and interest to groupings. Also use it in shrub borders, for quick shade over a patio, or as a lawn specimen.
The sap of toddy palm is very high in simple sugars. In India and other Asian countries, this palm is tapped for its syrup which is often fermented into an alcoholic beverage called toddy. The syrup is also processed into a granular sugar called jaggery.
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.