Queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) is among the most beautiful, tropical-looking palms with large feathery fronds emerging atop an upright trunk. It is grown widely in both tropical and subtropical regions, where temperatures in winter never drop below 25 degrees F. The queen palm produces large amounts of fruits each summer that germinate readily, often leading this palm to be considered a nuisance weed. Grow queen palm in U.S. Department of Agriculture winter hardiness zones 9 and warmer.
Queen palm is native to the seasonal wet forests and swamps in southern and southeastern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, northern Uruguay and northeastern Argentina.
Queen palm used to be known by two botanical names: Arecastrum romanzoffianum and Cocos plumosa. The latter is a reason why it is also commonly called the cocos palm. Plant nurseries and literature pre-dating the 21st century may still use or list either name.
There is great natural variability of the queen palm, according to "An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms." The trunks usually grow to 50 feet but in the optimum garden setting will reach 75 feet. Palms grown with ample soil moisture develop thinner trunks while those exposed to seasonal droughts are much thicker. The arching fronds emanate from the growing tip at the top of the trunk. Each frond is 7 to 15 feet long and comprises hundreds of strap-like leaflets. The fronds range in color from dark green in fertile soils to light yellow-green when growing in sandy soils with few nutrients. In early summer a large branch flower stalk emerges from the frond cluster to bear creamy pale yellow flowers that later become oval fruits 1 inch in diameter that ripen to orange.
One of the fastest growing palms if given a warm to hot climate with ample soil moisture, queen palm will grow upward of 3 feet in trunk height annually, according to "An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms." Plant it in a fertile, moist, well-draining soil that ideally has an acidic pH, although an alkaline soil can be made more favorable with copious addition of organic matter and use of a thick mulch over its root zone. The queen palm needs abundant sunshine, no less than eight hours daily. If winter temperatures drop below 25 degrees F, fronds will be scalded, and prolonged exposure to cold under 20 degrees can kill the growing tip. Once the tip is killed the palm dies as no new growing tip is grown.
Ease of Hybridization
Queen palm naturally and readily hybridizes with other palms to create variable progeny. It will be pollinated by any of these species: Syagrus coronata, Syagrus oleracea and Syagrus schizophylla. Interestingly, queen palm also is compatible with the jelly palm (Butia capitata) and creates a more cold-hardy palm known as the mule palm (x Butiagrus nabonnandii).
Besides being an attractive palm tree for ornamental landscapes, queen palm's leaves and fruits are fed to livestock and the seeds crushed and fed to poultry. People in its native lands harvest and eat the palm's growing tip. The trunks are used to make saltwater piers since they resist damage from marine bore worms.