Fishtail Palm

idesign123May 24, 2010

I'm relatively new to gardening and need some advice.

I have a prime spot in my yard is begging for a large gorgeous palm. After lots of research, I've decided on the "Fishtail Palm"(Caryota gigas?).

I've found a great local resource (in San Diego area), and am ready to commit, but had a few quick questions before I proceed...

1) SKIN IRRITATION?

A kids playhouse will be somewhat near the tree. I recently read that Fishtail palms contain skin irritants, which saddens me since I really had my heart set on this palm. How big of a concern is the skin irritant factor? Is it going to be ok near a playhouse?

2) HOW FAST GROWTH?

It sounds like there are two main kinds of Fishtails - "Caryota Urens" gets extremely tall, and "Caryota Gigas" is more like 20-30 feet (which would be perfect for my yard). It sounds like Gigas is what I want, correct? If so, how long will it take to grow to a large shady canopy (assuming I start with a 15 gallon)?

3) BEST TIME TO PLANT?

I was originally going to plant it in the Fall (since I'm still working on my yard), but my husband pointed out that if we plant it now, it might get some height over the summer (moving us closer to our ideal height). Is there an ideal time to plant this kind of palm?

Thank you very much for any advice you can give me!

:Stacey

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tropicalzone7(7b)

I dont think its that bad of a skin irritant unless you have very sensitive skin. These are beautiful palms with only one downside....They do not live very long. It will get to about 30 feet tall in only 30 years and then after that you will see magnificent flowers that cover the entire tree and then the tree will decline in health until it finishes flowering and dies. Seedlings can then be seen on the bottom of the mother because the flowers drop lots of seeds.
I just wanted to warn you about the fact that you, or whomever owns your home at the time, will have to eventually cut it down.
They grow fast and I recommend planting them as soon as possible. The larger species can put out a very good amount of new growth every year.

Good luck!
-Alex

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 6:19PM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

If the fact that it will die after flowering really discourages you from trying out fishtail palms, you can always try Caryota mitis, which is in the same family, looks very similar with the main difference being that is suckers so when one trunk dies there are others that will take its place. It still has those nice unusual fronds and looks very nice.

Good luck!
-Alex

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 6:23PM
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idesign123

Thanks for the tips - I'll definitely do some research on Caryota mitis!

I'm actually not concerned about the eventual removal. 20 years' use of a stunningly beautiful tree would be worth the trouble to me.

As for the irritant concern, maybe I'll just go to a nursery and feel for myself (with cortizone cream nearby just in case). My kids & I don't have super-sensitive skin, so as long as it's not "irresponsible" to put this tree near a playhouse, my temptation is to proceed. If someone has a caution though, please speak up!

Any other thoughts on planting it now vs in the Fall?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:17PM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

I would plant now. It would be more prepared in the event that this coming winter is cold, and it usually doesnt start to grow fast until its second year so it could spend this year establishing itself so next year when your yard is more complete, it will be ready to grow nicely.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:44PM
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lzrddr(91360)

First of all, it is only the fruits that are skin irritant, and only if you step on them with bare feet, or pick them up and mash them in your hands.. otherwise, no problems (fruit has tons of oxylates in it, so it is also quite toxic to eat- will make your throat swell up and puke your guts out).

As for types of Fishtails, there are several main looks... Caryota urens-like fishtails are tall, very fast growing and thin in overall profile. A well grown C urens is a beauty, though and will amaze everyone in your neighborhood. Caryota maxima and ochlandra look pretty similar. C ochlandra is slower.

Caryota gigas is a massive tree and holds it leaves out laterally, rather than arching them down closer to the trunk. You need tons of room to grow this palm. Young ones are impressive palms, but older ones in windy areas of So Cal are pretty sad looking trees. If you live far from the coast or at least in a valley or protected area in San Diego or Orange county, you might be fine.. .but north of that, or near the coast, this palm rarely looks that great once it gets up into the windy weather. Caryota no looks similar (but much harder to grow in So Cal).

Caryota mitis is a shrimpy suckering version that in So Cal is almost always a sad looking plant... better in the tropics.

A note about Caryotas in dry, windy climates (So Cal)- these things blow over all the time and can literally crush a house. So careful! Also, once they die, they are a royal pain to get rid of... probably one of the hardest wood of all the palms- nearly impossible to cut even with a chain saw... so you need to think about that before planting one. Best to put out near the street and be sure your homeowners insurance is up to date.

Below are some Caryota pics... first is of some Caryota urens in San Diego Zoo, with a Caryota gigas seedling to the right of the photo for comparison.

This is of a group of Caryota gigas in Huntington Gardens before they started to get a bit too tall for their own good

This is one getting too tall in a neighborhood in Orange County California

Caryota mitis in Los Angeles arboretum- messy

a 'fourth' type of Caryota is the Caryota rumphiana complex.. more upright leaves but with some of the nice leaf spread of a gigas... sadly these do NOt do well in California... this shot is from some street trees in Singapore

lastly this is good shot of all the Caryota types growing together in a botanical garden in Hawaii (Oahu)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 12:15AM
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idesign123

Thanks you soooo much for your help!!!

Looking at your photos, I'm sure that Caryota gigas is the one I want. Luckily, the spot I'm eyeing is very large, and it's accessible for the eventual removal.

The only concern I still have is about the wind. I'm in a valley so I'm probably ok, but I'm going to talk with my husband more about this factor.

Thanks again - you guys are the best!!!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 5:01PM
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bebewhite

HOW DEEP DO THE ROOTS OF CARYOTA URENS GO? IM IN FLORIDA AND HAVE 5 YR OLD 30' FISHTAIL FORMING A "WALL" AROUNDMY POOLSCREEN. THEY ARE AS CLOSE AS 8' AWAY FROM ENTIRE BACK OF SCREEN WINDS HERE LAST NITE 30MPH AND INTERLOCKING TREES BARELY SWAYED. THEY form a wall around pool area and actually almost touch house on either side.
How worried should I be re winds??? Since they are interlocked and there must be 25 -30 of them I need to get a handle on what Ive got going on here. I have already cut 7-8 30' trees down. New trees grow from the "mother trees".

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 2:42PM
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bebewhite

HOW DEEP DO THE ROOTS OF CARYOTA URENS GO? IM IN FLORIDA AND HAVE 5 YR OLD 30' FISHTAIL FORMING A "WALL" AROUNDMY POOLSCREEN. THEY ARE AS CLOSE AS 8' AWAY FROM ENTIRE BACK OF SCREEN WINDS HERE LAST NITE 30MPH AND INTERLOCKING TREES BARELY SWAYED. THEY form a wall around pool area and actually almost touch house on either side.
How worried should I be re winds??? Since they are interlocked and there must be 25 -30 of them I need to get a handle on what Ive got going on here. I have already cut 7-8 30' trees down. New trees grow from the "mother trees".

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 2:43PM
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bebewhite

HOW DEEP DO THE ROOTS OF CARYOTA URENS GO? IM IN FLORIDA AND HAVE 5 YR OLD 30' FISHTAIL FORMING A "WALL" AROUNDMY POOLSCREEN. THEY ARE AS CLOSE AS 8' AWAY FROM ENTIRE BACK OF SCREEN WINDS HERE LAST NITE 30MPH AND INTERLOCKING TREES BARELY SWAYED. THEY form a wall around pool area and actually almost touch house on either side.
How worried should I be re winds??? Since they are interlocked and there must be 25 -30 of them I need to get a handle on what Ive got going on here. I have already cut 7-8 30' trees down. New trees grow from the "mother trees".

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 2:44PM
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stanofh

I'm no Fishpalm expert but if they sucker..then there not C.urens but C.mitis.
And I wonder how well those giant maxima do in winds?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:38PM
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Cheryl.637

I am cutting down 3 that are 20ft tall as i type. I didnt do my home work around 10 or 12 years ago when we planted them and they are too close to the house and hindering a large oak. They are huge and grew extremely fast. I am currently itching like crazy! I didn't even touch them but when the tree fell I guess the tiny crystal hair blew off on my legs. Does anyone know how to stop the itching? The only thing I can find online is use tape to get them out. To the last poster, we have never had a problem with them as an irritant. We even walk by and brushed up against them to get to our pump house. We have all hung out near them and walked through them, even my now, 5 yr old granddaughter through the years. I don't think it should be a problem for you. From what I have read today, it is the seeds that cause the itching so tell everyone not to touch those.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 5:00PM
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socal23(USDA10/Sunset23)

Palms are monocots - no secondary root growth. This means that they have many relatively small adventitious roots that emerge from the base with very little branching - a good visual is to imagine the tree inverted with the roots in the air - it would have a similar appearance to someone with long, thin hair putting their hand on a Van de Graaf generator.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 10:57AM
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tropicbreezent

"........ putting their hand on a Van de Graaf generator." Without, of course, the sound effects, flashing, smoke or strange smell, LOL.

If you can deal with their size, C. maxima look great, very Tree Fern-like.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 11:19PM
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