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ARENGA engleri

Image of Arenga engleri

James Burghardt

Family

Arecaceae

Botanical Name

ARENGA engleri

Plant Common Name

Dwarf Sugar Palm, Formosa Palm

General Description

Valued for its large, lush, tropical leaves and its remarkable cold hardiness, this small clump-forming palm is native to moist forested slopes in Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands. Its stems are monocarpic, each individual trunk dying after it flowers and fruits.

The enormous, feather-like, upright fronds are borne atop short slender trunks clothed with black hairy fibers. Each frond comprises numerous long narrow blade-shaped leaflets, paired along a midrib (or "rachis"). The stiff leaflets are rich green above and silver-green below, and their tips are often tattered. The fronds often tilt, revealing their silvery undersides. Older trunks may produce branching, pendent chains of fragrant yellow-orange flowers within their crowns. Inflorescences contain both male and female flowers, the latter giving rise to round purple fruits that resemble small grapes. The fruits contain caustic compounds that can cause skin damage. Trunks die after fruiting, but others grow to take their place.

Grow Formosa palm in partial shade in moist, humus-rich, slightly acidic soil. It will tolerate full sun if given adequate water and shelter from wind. It endures quite a few degrees of frost, surviving in protected niches in USDA Zone 8. Use it as a dense hedge or screen or as a lush backdrop for a tropicalesque mixed border. It is lovely clumped in a lawn, provided dead trunks and wayward shoots are removed. It also works well in a greenhouse or conservatory.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Palm or Cycad

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    10'-15' / 3.0m - 4.6m

  • Width

    8'-15' / 2.4m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    China, Japan

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Orange

  • Fruit Color

    Purple

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Foundation, Hedges, Houseplant, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes