Common Names of Common (and Uncommon) Palms*
by Bill Bittle
Everyone who collects palms has certainly had the experience of making a "find" in a nursery, knowing in his or her heart that this is an unusual plant, and asking the nurseryman for an identification, often to be told that the plant is a "Fan palm". Even worse, perhaps, is when the nurseryman tells you that your plant is a "Seaforthia elegans", which sounds very much as if he or she really has a grip on palm classification. You purchase it, rush it home and find that there is no such name listed in any of the hugely expensive and authoritative books you have accumulated.
For reasons known only to nurserymen and growers themselves, there has been a tendency for decades to sell most plants under "common names". For such plants as Sweet William, Four-O'clocks and Castor Oil Plant, few problems are encountered. These garden plants have carried unique and stable common names for so many years that most of us would have serious difficulty identifying them any other way. But when dealing with relatively uncommon plants (and with perhaps 15 exceptions, most palms are "uncommon" in most parts of the country), relatively few common names are known, and dealers tend to revert to descriptive or geographical terms (e.g., "Fan palm", "Madagascar palm", etc.)
Another problem is that many common names are not unique to a single genus or species, being applied to a variety of palms (e.g. "bamboo palm", applied to many species; "Lipstick palm", "Maharajah palm", "Pinang rajah", all applied in one source or another to Cyrtostachys renda).
I would say that, in the main, nursery terms fall into several broad categories:
Perhaps I am being too hard on nurserymen and growers. It is certainly true that the general public regards botanical names as cumbersome and unpronounceable (if not altogether occult), and avoids them altogether. Even many collectors favor common names for their plants. There is certainly no problem encountered when there is a general agreement on a common name, and when this name is reserved for only one species of palm. Everyone knows what a Queen Palm is, and I know of no other palm that has been given this name.
But there is a clear advantage to employing botanical names for less common palms, as well as in knowing the common names that are applied to a any of the more common palms. I have talked to a number of knowledgeable people recently, who have seen Majesty palms (now found everywhere), but who could not easily determine what they are botanically, since lists of common names are in short supply. In the interest of helping to clarify the common name problem (but hopefully not to further confuse the issue), I have compiled a list from a number of widely used sources in an attempt to afford a handy guide to common names/botanical names of many palms.
In the following, I have observed some fairly arbitrary rules:
1. Palm names in foreign languages are, in the main, not included. If you look through Hodel's excellent book on the Chamaedoreas, or Henderson, et al., Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas, you will find quite literally hundreds of local Spanish names for many of the palms. Since these are not in widespread cultivation outside of the area where the palms grow, the casual collector will probably never worry about its common name.
2. In most cases, I have avoided heavy dependence on local proliferate English names, especially from Australian authors. Many of these names are much restricted in their use. Many also apply to a large number of species not commonly grown in the United States. For example, Jones lists dozens of names for the many varieties of Calamus which are native to his country, and I have included only a few of these.
3. I have tried to represent variants of common names in order to make utilization of this list somewhat easier. One could argue that Betel palm and Betel nut palm are redundant representations of Areca catechu. But many other palms are represented by common names which are equally similar, but which apply to quite different palms (e.g. Chinese fan palm and Chinese windmill palm for Livistona sp. and Trachycarpus fortunei, respectively).
4. In some areas, common name designations consist of the genus or species name, employed with a modifier. For example, Tallier palm for Corypha talliera, Robinson's fan palm for Livistona robinsoniana, or Carpentaria palm for Carpentaria acuminata. In some cases, I have included some examples of this type, but only when there is very widespread use of the term, (e.g., Bismarck palm for Bismarckia nobilis).
I have used six primary sources in compiling this list, each name indicating the work from which the citation is taken, as follows: (G) Graff, (MC) McCurrach, (UD) Uhl and Dransfield, (BR) Blombery and Rodd, (S) Stevenson, and (J) Jones. Full citations of these sources appear at the end of the listing.
There will certainly be some disagreement on certain of the common names and their application to a given species of palm. This list is not meant to be a critical one; rather it is a collection of terms unmodified from their use by the various authors. There may also be some inconsistencies; but "to err is human", etc.
The List of Common Names
|Acai palm (J) Euterpe oleracea
(BR) Veitchia merrilli
African bamboo palm (J) Raphia vinifera
African oil palm (G) Elaeis guineensis
African palmyra palm (J) Borassus aethiopum
African wine palm (G) Raphia vinifera
Alexander palm (G) Archontophoenix alexandrae
Alexander palm (G) Ptychosperma elegans
Alexandra palm (BR) Archontophoenix alexandrae
American cotton palm (J) Washingtonia filifera
American oil palm (UD) Elaeis oleifera
Andean wax palm (UD) Ceroxylon sp.
Ant rattan (UD) Korthalsia sp.
Areca palm (G) Areca sp.
Areca palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Arikury palm (5) Syagrus schizophylla
Assai palm (G) Brahea edulis
Assai palm (UD) Euterpe sp.
Atherton palm (J) Laccospadix australasica
Australian cabbage palm (G) Livistona australis
Australian fan palm (G) Livistona australis
Australian fan palm (J) Licuala ramsayi
Bamboo palm (G) Chamaedorea erumpens
Bamboo palm (G) Rhapis excelsa
Bamboo palm (J) Chamaedorea microspadix
Barbel palm (MC) Acanthophoenix rubra
Barrel palm (G) Colpothrinax wrightii
Beguine palm (S) Drymophloeus beguini
Belmore sentry palm (BR) Howea belmoreana
Bermuda fan palm (J) Sabal bermudana
Betel nut palm (G) Areca catechu
Betel palm (BR) Areca catechu
Big mountain palm (J) Hedyscepe canturburyana
Bismarck palm (S) Bismarckia nobilis
Black fiber palm (G) Arenga pinnata
Black palm (UD) Normanbya normanbyi
Black sugar palm (S) Arenga pinnata
Blue hesper palm (BR) Brahea armata
Blue latan palm (J) Latania loddigesii
Blue palm (J) Sabal violacea
Blue palmetto (BR) Sabal minor
Blue palmetto (G) Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Blue palmetto (G) Sabal palmetto
Bomean sago palm (UD) Eugeissonia utilis
Bottle palm (G) Colpothrinax wrightii
Bottle palm (G) Hyophorbe americaulis
Bottle palm (G) Hyophorbe lagenicaulis
Brittle thatch palm (S) Thrinax microcarpus
Broom palm (UD) Coccothrinax sp.
Buccaneer palm (UD) Pseudophoenix vinifera
Buccaneer palm (UD) Pseudophoenix sargentii
Bull thatch palm (J) Sabal aresana
Bungalow palm (BR) Archtontophoenix cunninghamiana
Buri palm (S) Polyancrococos caudescens
Buniti palm (UD) Mauritius sp.
Bush palmetto (G) Sabal minor
Butterfly palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Cabada palm (UD) Dypsis cabadae
Cabbage palm (G) Sabal palmetto
Cabbage palmetto (G) Sabal palmetto
Cabbage tree (G) Sabal palmetto
Canary date palm (G) Phoenix canariensis
Canary Island date palm (G) Phoenix canariensis
Cane palm (G) Calamus sp.
Cane palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Caranday palm (BR) Copernicia alba
Caranday palm (UD) Trithrinax sp.
Caribbean royal palm (BR) Roystonea oleracea
Carnauba wax palm (BR) Copernicia prunifera
Central Australian fan palm (BR) Livistona mariae
Ceylon date palm (MC) Phoenix zeylanica
Chamaerops excelsa (old usage) Trachycarpus fortunei
Cherry palm (UD) Pseudophoenix vinifera
Chilean wine palm (G) Jubaea chilensis
Chinese fan palm (G) Latania sp.
Chinese fan palm (G) Livistona chinensis
Chinese windmill palm (liD) Trachycarpus fortunei
Chonta palm (UD) Juania sp.
Christmas palm (G) Veitchia merrillii
Chusan palm (UD) Trachycarpus fortunei
Cliff date (G) Phoenix rupicola
Climbing chamaedorea (J) Chamaedorea elatior
Clumping fishtail palm (S) Caryota mitis
Clustered fishtail palm (G) Caryota mitis
Coco de mer (MC) Lodoicea maldivica
Coco verde (J) Syagrus pseudococos
Coconut palm (G) Cocos nucifera
Cocos australis Butia capitata
Cocos plumosa Syagrus romanzoffianum
Cohune palm (UD) Attalea cohune
Collinia elegans (BR) Chamaedorea elegans
Coquito palm (BR) Jubaea chilensis
Corkscrew palmetto (S) Sabal etonia
Corojo palm (MC) Acrocomia mexicana
Coyure palm (UD) Aiphanes acanthophylla
Cuban belly palm (S) Gastrococos crispa
Cuban petticoat palm (S) Copernicia macroglossa
Cuban royal palm (G) Roystonea regia
Curly palm (G) Howea belmoreana
Date palm (G) Phoenix dactylifera
Date-sugar palm (S) Phoenix sylvestris
Desert fan palm (G) Washingtonia filifera
Dhoum palm (G) Hyphaene thebaica
Double coconut (MC) Lodoicea maldivica
Doum palm (G) Hyphaene thebaica
Dwarf fan palm (J) Livistona muelleri
Dwarf palmetto (G) Sabal minor
Dwarf royal palm (J) Veitchia merrilli
East African doum palm (BR) Hyphaene compressa
East Indian wine palm (G) Phoenix sylvestris
European fan palm (G) Chamoerops humilis
Everglades palm (G) Acoelorraphe wrightii
Fan palm (G) Chamaerops, Coccothrinax, Washingtonia
Feather duster palm (G) Rhopalostylis sapida
Fern rhapis (G) Rhapis flabelliformis
Fiji fan palm (G) Pritchardia pacifica
Finger palm (J) Rhapis multifida
Fishtail lawyer cane (BR) Calamus caryotoides
Fishtail palm (G) Caryota sp.
Florida silver palm (S) Coccothrinax argentata
Florida thatch palm (BR) Thrinax radiata
Florida thatch palm (G) Thrinax parviflora
Flour palm (J) Phoenix farinifera
Footstool palm (BR) Livistona rotundifolia
Formosa palm (J) Arenga engleri
Fountain palm (G) Livistona chinensis
Foxtail palm (UD) Wodyetia bifurcata
Franceschi palm (MC) Brahea elegans
Gebang palm (BR) Corypha elata
Giant fishtail palm (J) Caryota no
Giant mountain fishtail palm (J) Caryota maxima
Gingerbread palm (G) Hyphaene thebaica
Golden feather palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Good luck palm (G) Chamaedorea elegans
Gru Gru palm (G) Acrocomia totai
Guadalupe palm (G) Brahea edulis
Guano palm (BR) Copernicia glabrescens
Hair palm (G) Chamaerops humilis
Hesper palm (J) Brahea sp.
Hispaniolan silver palm (S) Coccothrinax argentea
Hog palm (UD) Hyospathe concinna
Horn palm (UD) Iriartea sp.
Hurricane palm (G) Ptychosperma macarthuri
Hurricane palm (MC) Dictyosperma album
India date palm (G) Phoenix sylvestris
Iron thatch palm (J) Thrinax parviflora
Ivory cane palm (J) Pinanga kuhlii
Ivory nut palm (G) Phytelephas macrocarpa
Ivory nut palm (UD) Metroxylon sp.
Ivory palm (UD) Phytelephas sp.
Ivory palm (UD) Palandra aequatorialis
Jaggary palm (BR) Caryota urens
Jamaican thatch palm (S) Thrinax excelsa
Jata palm (BR) Copernicia rigida
Jelly palm (G) Butia capitata
Jellybean palm (UD) Synechanthus sp.
Joey palm (J) Johannesteijsmannia sp.
Kafir palm (UD) Jubaeopsis caffra
Kentia palm (G) Howea sp.
Kepang palm (UD) Pholidocarpus macrocarpus
Key palm (G) Thrinax microcarpa
Key palm (UD) Thrinax sp.
King palm (UD) Archontophoenix sp.
Lady palm (G) Rhapis excelsa
Large lady palm (G) Rhapis excelsa
Lata palm (S) Bactris major
Lawyer cane (BR) Calamus australis
Licuala palm (UD) Licuala sp.
Licury palm (UD) Syagrus coronata
|Lipstick palm (BR) Cyrtostachys renda
Little lady palm (G) Rhapis excelsa (?)
Llume palm (MC) Gaussia princeps
Lontar palm (BR) Borassus flabellifer
Loulu hiwa palm (BR) Pritchardia martii
Loulu palm (BR) Pritchardia sp.
Macarthur feather palm (G) Ptychosperma macarthuri
Macaw palm (BR) Aiphanes erosa
Macaw palm (S) Acrocomia aculeata
Majestic palm (J) Ravenea rivularis
Majesty palm (UD) Ravenea rivularis
Malagasy palm (S) Dypsis madagascariensis
Manac palm (MC) Calyptronoma swarztii
Mangrove date palm (J) Phoenix paludosa
Mangrove palm (J, UD) Nypa fruticans
Manila palm (G) Veitchia merrilli
Maya palm (UD) Gaussia maya
Mazari palm (S) Nannorrhops ritchiana
Metallic (metal) palm (J) Chamaedorea metallica
Mexican blue palm (G) Brahea armata
Mexican fan palm (G) Washingtonia robusta
Mexican palmetto (BR) Sabal mexicana
Mexican silver thatch palm (J) Coccothrinax readii
Millstream palm (BR) Livistona alfredii
Miniature date palm (G) Phoenix roebelenii
Miniature fan palm (G) Rhapis excelsa
Miraguama (J) Coccothrinax miraguama
Monkey cap palm (UD) Manicaria sp.
Moreche palm (UD) Mauritius sp.
Mountain cabbage (UD) Prestoea montana
Mountain fishtail palm (J) Caryota obtusa
Mountain palm (G) Euterpe globosa
Neanthe bella (G) Chamaedorea elegans
Necklace palm (J) Chamaedorea geonomiformis
Needle palm (G) Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Nihau palm (G) Rhopalostylis sapida
Nipah palm (UD) Nypa fruticans
Norfolk palm (UD) Rhopalostylis baueri
Northern Kentia palm (J) Gronophyllum ramsayi
Old man palm (S) Coccothrinax crinita
Olive palm (S) Drymophloeus olivaeformis
Overtop palm (J) Syagrus amara
Overtop palm (MC) Rhyticocos amara
Pacaya palm (J) Chamaedorea tepejilote
Palmetto (G) Sabal palmetto
Palmetto palm (G) Sabal palmetto
Palmetto thatch (G) Thrinax parviflora
Palmyra palm (G) Borassus flabellifer
Paradise palm (G) Howea sp.
Parlor palm (G) Chamaedorea elegans
Paurotis palm (BR) Acoelorraphe wrightii
Peaberry palm (BR) Thrinax morrisii
Peach palm (G) Bactris gasipaes
Peach palm (G) Thrinax sp.
Petticoat palm (G) Copernicia macroglossa
Petticoat palm (G) Washingtonia filifera
Piassaba palm (MC) Attalea funifera
Piassava palm (UD) Leopoldinia sp.
Piccabeen palm (BR) Archtontophoenix cunninghamiana
Pig nut palm (G) Hyophorbe sp.
Pigmy date palm (G) Phoenix roebelenii
Pimento palm (UD) Schippia concolor
Pinang palm (IJD) Nenga sp.
Pinang palm (UD) Pinanga sp.
Pondoland palm (UD) Jubaeopsis caffra
Porcupine palm (G) Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Potato chip palm (J) Chamaedorea tuerckhemii
Princess palm (G) Dictyosperma sp.
Puerto Rican hat palm (G) Sabal causiarum
Queen palm (G) Butia capitata
Queen palm (G) Syagrus romanzoffianum
Queensland black palm (BR) Normanbya normanbyi
Raffia palm (G) Raphia farinifera
Rattan palm (G) Calamus sp.
Rattan palm (UD) Daemonorops sp.
Red latan palm (BR) Latania lontoroides
Redneck palm (J) Dypsis leptocheilos
Reed rhapis (G) Rhapis humilis
Ribbon fan palm (J) Livistona decipiens
Ribbon palm (G) Livistona decipiens
Rio Grande palmetto (S) Sabal mexicana
Rock palm (MC) Brahea dulcis
Roebelini palm (G) Pheonix roebelenii
Rootspine palm (UD) Crysophila sp.
Rotan palm (UD) Daemonorops sp.
Rotan palm (UD) Calamus sp.
Royal palm (G) Roystonea sp.
Ruffle palm (G) Aiphanes caryotifolia
Ruffle palm (J) Aiphanes aculeata
Sagisi palm (UD) Heterospathe elata
Sago palm (G) Metroxylon sp.
Sagu palm (UD) Metroxylon sp.
Salak palm (UD) Salacca zalacca
San Jose Hesper palm (BR) Brahea brandegeei
Sand palm (5) Allogoptera arenaria
Satake palm (5) Satakentia liukiuensis
Savannah palm (BR) Sabal mauritiiformis
Saw cabbage (G) Acoelorraphae wrightii
Scrub palmetto (G) Sabal etonia
Scrub palmetto (G) Sabal minor
Seaforthia (G) Ptyschosperma sp.
Seaforthia elegans (BR) Archontophoenix cunninghamiana
Sealing wax palm (UD) Cyrtostachys renda
Seamberty palm (G) Coccothrinax sp.
Senegal date palm (G) Phoenix reclinata
Sentry palm (G) Howea forsteriana
Serdang palm (UD) Pholidocarpus sp.
Serdant (1) Livistona saribus
Sierra palm (5) Gaussia princeps
Silver date palm (J) Phoenix sylvestris
Silver palm (G) Coccothrinax argentata
Silvery rootspine palm (5) Cryosophila argentea
Silvery thatch palm (5)Thrinax microcarpus
Sinaloa hesper palm (J) Brahea aculeata
Skyduster (J) Washingtonia robusta
Skyduster (J) Manicaria sp.
Slender lady palm (BR) Rhapis humilis
Solitaire palm (G) Ptychosperma elegans
Sonoran palmetto (J) Sabal uresana
South American royal palm (G) Roystonea oleracea
Spear palm (J) Balaka microcarpa
Spindle palm (G) Hypophorbe verschaffeltii
Spine palm (G) Aiphanes caryotifolia
Spiny club palm (G) Bactris gasipaes
Spiny fiber palm (J) Trithrinax acanthocoma
Star-nut palm (MC) Astrocaryum aculeatum
Stilt palm (UD) Iriartea sp.
Stilt palm (UD) Socratea sp.
Sugar palm (G) Arenga pinnata
Syrup palm (G) Jubaea chilensis
Tagua nut palm (UD) Palandra aequatorialis
Tagua nut palm (UD) Phytelephas sp.
Talipot palm (G) Corypha umbraculifera
Texas palmetto (G) Sabal texana (mexicana)
Thatch palm (G) Coccothrinax sp.
Thatch palm (UD) Thrinax sp.
Thatchleaf palm (G) Howea forsteriana
Thread palm (G) Washingtonia robusta &
Tiger palm (J) Pinanga maculata
Toddy palm (G) Borassus flabellifer
Toddy palm (G) Caryota urens
Triangle palm (5) Dypsis decaryi
True sago palm (UD) Metroxylon sp.
Tufted fishtail palm (G) Caryota mitis
Umbrella palm (BR) Hedyscepe canterburyana
Umbrella palm (G) Howea sp.
Vanuatu palm (J) Licuala grandis
Vegetable ivory palm (J) Hyphaene petersiana
Walking stick palm (G) Linospadix monostachya
Wanga palm (BR) Pigafetta filaris
Washington palm (G) Washingtonia sp.
Wax palm (G) Ceroxylon andicola
Weddell palm (G) Lytocaryum wedellianum
Weeping cabbage palm (J) Livistona decipiens
Wild date (G) Phoenix sylvestris
Windmill palm (G) Trachycarpus fortunei
Windmill palm (UD) Chamaerops humilis
Window palm (UD) Reinhardtia gracilis
Wine palm (G) Caryota urens
Wine palm (G) Jubaea chilensis
Wine palm (J) Raphia hookeri
Yagua palm (UD) Attalea macrocarpa
Yatay palm (UD) Butia yatay
Yellow butterfly palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Yellow latan palm (BR) Latania verschaffeltii
Yellow palm (G) Dypsis lutescens
Yellow princess palm (5) Dictyosperma aureum
Zombi palm (UD) Zombia antillarum
Blombery, Alec and Tony Rodd, Palms of the World, Angus and Robertson, North Ryde, NSW, Australia, 1982.
Graf, Alfred Byrd, Exotica, Third Edition, Roehrs and Co., Rutherford, NJ. 1974.
Jones, David L., Palms Throughout the World, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1995.
McCurrach, James C., Palms of the World, Dale King Publishers, Globe, AZ. 1960.
Stevenson, George S., Palms of South Florida (Privately printed, 1974, as a guide to the palms of Fairchild Gardens).
Uhl, Natalie, and John Dransfield, Genera Palmarum, Allen Press, Lawrence, KS. 1987.
* This article was originally published in the Bulletin of the Palm Society of South Texas and is reprinted here with permission from the author/editor.
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