This is a palm with an identity crisis! A few decades ago the queen palm was assigned the name Cocos plumosa. During the late sixties and seventies most experts began referring to it as Arecastrum romanzoffianum. Now this queen has been placed in the genus Syagrus, the species name became romanzoffiana - hopefully Syagrus romanzoffiana will stick!
Despite its difficulties with nomenclature, the queen palm really does strike a regal pose in the landscape. Growing to maximum height of about 50 feet, this plam has a smooth straight grey trunk ringed with evenly spaced leaf scars and topped with a large canopy of feathery plumes. These lacy fronds are a dark glossy green and have double rows of leaflets. These droop to the ground like double rows of fringe to cast shady patterns on the lawn. Informal groupings of three or more queens provides soft filtered sunlight perfect for shade gardens.
During the summer season the queen decks herself out with impressive infloresences (flower structures - photo at left). In early winter she takes on a sporty look when huge amounts of fruit appear. Bright orange 1 inch oval "dates" hang in impressive 6' bunches creating a colorful show. The party's over though when they fall to the ground creating sticky piles of rotting fruit that attract disagreeable insects. On the up side, volunteer seedling palms often grow from the mess if undistubed!
Native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina in South America. This palm is now widely planted as a landscape item. It is especially popular in Central Florida from Orlando to Tampa-Saint Petersburg where it is seen almost everywhere.
Queen palm is tolerant but prefers enriched sandy soils. Fertilize twice a year in spring and summer with a fertilizer that contains micronutrients, especially manganese. A deficiency of this micronutrient results in a condition called "frizzle top" which causes leaves to look frayed and torn. This condition can be corrected by spreading a 1 to 3 pounds of manganese sulphate beneath the palm (amount depends on the size of the tree) . Light: Full sun is best but will tolerate some shade. Moisture: It will withstand some drought but keep watered for best looks and fastest growth.
Hardiness:USDA Zones 9-11. Cold damage appears at 25°F, the plant freezes and dies at about 20° F. Propagation: By seed. These will germinate in 3 to 4 months. An easy way to obtain plants is to dig and pot the volunteer seedlings that often appear under adult palms.
Use Queen palm in natural groupings and to frame views. This is an excellent palm for lining streets and boulevards like those shown in the photo along 6th Avenue in San Diego, California. It can succeed in urban environments if maintained with adequate moisture. Queen palm is fun and easy to grow in pots outdoors.
An interesting inter-generic hybrid is occassionally available that is a cross between Syagrus romanzoffiana and Butia capitata. The hybrid, referred to as X Butiarecastrum, has the grace of the queen palm and the cold hardiness of Butia. This hybrid is difficult to find however.
Queen palm is a beautiful palm that is inexpensive, easy to find and easy to grow. With a little care a small plant will make a dramatic specimen within a few years.