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ARENGA pinnata

Image of Arenga pinnata

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Arecaceae

Botanical Name

ARENGA pinnata

Plant Common Name

Sugar Palm

General Description

A stately palm with immense fronds and a tall, shaggy trunk, this Indonesian native has long been cultivated in Southeast Asia for its sweet sap and tough fibers. A monocarpic plant, it dies after it flowers and fruits.

Borne on sturdy, fiber-coated leaf stems ("petioles"), the enormous, upright, evergreen fronds can be as long as a small bus. They cluster atop a solitary trunk that is densely thatched with gray or black burlap-like fibers and armed with thin, woody, skewer-like spines. Each frond comprises numerous long, narrow, blade-shaped, drooping leaflets, paired along a midrib (or "rachis"). The leaflets are rich green above and silver-green below. At about 12 years of age or older, plants produce a large, pendent, branching cluster of fragrant purplish flowers at the inner base (or "axil") of the uppermost petiole. The inflorescence usually contains both male and female flowers, the latter giving rise to small round yellow fruits. More inflorescences follow sequentially from the other petiole axils, from the top to the bottom of the trunk, with flowering continuing for about 2 years. The plant dies after producing the lowermost inflorescence. The fruits contain caustic compounds that can cause severe dermatitis.

Sugar palm does best in full to partial sun and moist humus-rich soil. Young seedlings require some shade. Since this palm is typically short-lived, it works best in lush mixed plantings of trees and shrubs. In drier regions such as Southern California it may not flower for many decades.

This palm is considered invasive or potentially invasive in several areas including Tanzania and Hawaii.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Plant Type

    Palm or Cycad

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    35'-60' / 10.7m - 18.3m

  • Width

    20'-40' / 6.1m - 12.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Green, Purple

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Black, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes